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IN THE 1980s 






Foreword by Max Lerner 

Routledge & Kegan Paul 

London and Henley 

First published in Great Britain in 1981 
by Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd 
39 Store Street, London WC1E 7DD and 
Broadway House, Newtown Road, 
Henley-on-Thames, Oxon RG9 1EN 
Printed in Great Britain by 

Unwin Bros Ltd, Gresham Press, Old Woking, Surrey 

Copyright © 1980 by Marilyn Ferguson 

No part of this book may be reproduced in 

any form without permission from the 

publisher, except for the quotation of brief 

passages in criticism 

ISBN 0-7100-0829-5 


Eric , Kris , and Lynn 

Time, events, or the unaided individual action of the 
mind will sometimes undermine or destroy an 
opinion without any outward sign of change. . . .No 
conspiracy has been formed to make war on it, but its 
followers one by one noiselessly secede. As its 
opponents remain mute or only interchange their 
thoughts by stealth, they are themselves unaware for 
a long period that a great revolution has actually 
been effected. 


And I strive to discover how to signal my 
companions .. .to say in time a simple word, a 
password, like conspirators: Let us unite, let us hold 
each other tightly, let us merge our hearts, let us 
create for Earth a brain and a heart, let us give a 
human meaning to the superhuman struggle. 


This soul can only be a conspiracy of individuals. 



Foreword by Max Lemer 







The Conspiracy 



Premonitions of Transformation 
and Conspiracy 



Transformation: Brains Changing, 
Minds Changing 



Crossover: People Changing 



The American Matrix for 



Liberating Knowledge: 
News from the Frontiers 
of Science 



Right Power 



Healing Ourselves 



Flying and Seeing: 
New Ways to Learn 



The Transformation of Values 
and Vocation 



Spiritual Adventure: 
Connection to the Source 



Human Connections: 
Relationships Changing 



The Whole- Earth Conspiracy 



Summary of Questionnaire 



Resources for Change 


References and Readings 






I first encountered Marilyn Ferguson in her book. The Brain 
Revolution, and later in her remarkable bi-weekly research re- 
port, the BrainIMind Bulletin. Both gave me a foretaste of what 
was to come. 

Now, with The Aquarian Conspiracy, she has written a book on 
the transformation of our consciousness that will itself leave a 
mark on the consciousness of our time. 

Marilyn Ferguson is the best reporter today on the farther 
reaches of investigation into the life and human sciences. She 
represents a new kind of investigative journalist — not a sleuth 
after the corruptions of a politician but one tracking the spoor 
of a new research idea in all its windings; following it to its 
sources and its affinities in allied fields, its conclusions, its im- 
plications for the whole spectrum of human thought and con- 

She has had the courage to undertake this book as a 
participant-observer of the transformative process. Setting out 
to shed some light on the riddle of intelligence, she got en- 
snared by the mysteries and revelations of brain research, 
reached out to every discipline radiating from it — and was 
never the same again. 

She has proven to be a whirlwind of information, thought, 
and activity, a whole exploratory "network" in herself. 

Conferences on the mind's dimensions and the brain's func- 
tioning have called her everywhere. One day she would be in 
Los Angeles, the next two days in Denver, the weekend in 


12 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

Houston or Princeton, then back to San Francisco or San Diego. 
She lives on conferences, programs, and discussions as the rest 
of us live on protein and carbohydrates. Her observation post is 
in every auditorium, her garrison on every university campus, 
her spies in every little consciousness group and every labor- 

Nietzsche talked of philosophy as the gaya science, the joyful 
science, and to Marilyn Ferguson the area of knowledge she 
has staked out for her reporting and synthesizing is a joyful 
science. She describes with excitement the world of those who 
have strained to see past the blinders on the human spirit and 
have thrown them off, and she matches her own mood to their 
sense of optimism. "I bring you good news" is her message. 

It is news that we are in the midst of a knowledge revolution 
that shows signs of breakthrough: that researchers in the 
human sciences are moving independently in converging lines 
toward common targets; that they are discarding traditional 
models of the cosmos and ourselves — of the nature of nature 
and the nature of human nature — and reaching for new ones; 
that they have been spurred on by recent work on the brain 
hemispheres, on molecular biology, and biochemistry, on the 
genetic code, on primatology and ethnology, on biofeedback 
and altered states of consciousness, on medicine and psycho- 
therapies, on archaelogy and astronomy, on the evolutionary 
process, on the structure of language and the nature of mean- 
ing, on leadership and power, and on the governance of 
peoples and nations. 

Thus, the startling fact is that for the first time an American 
renaissance is taking place in all the disciplines, breaking the 
boundaries between them, transforming them at their farthest 
reaches — where they all converge. 

The reader will meet a number of key concepts on these 
pages — paradigms and paradigm shifts, entropy and syntropy, 
holism, holographs, the uncertainty principle, dissipative 
structures, punctuated evolution. This is not a "populariza- 
tion" that reduces the essence of these concepts in any way. It 
is, rather, the humanizing of the research and discoveries that 
have heretofore been beyond the reach of all but the initiates. 

We must all be grateful to the author for her impressive skills 
of exposition and synthesis that make the book a forerunner of 
others to come, once the path has been blazed. It is bound 
to become an important element in the "open conspiracy" of 
search, research, and intelligence it describes. 

A final word about the book's mood. I have for some time 

Foreword 13 

been impatient with the prevailing sense of pessimism and 
despair, especially among the intellectual and professional 
groups of the "New Class." I am not blind to the tragic and 
absurd, which seem to have been built into our time and 
perhaps into the human constitution. But I also feel that the 
sense of hope and possibility is also built in over the millen- 
nia of human coping. It is no small part of the new transforma- 
tive insights that they have released this sense of hope and pos- 

Amidst the prevailing gloom the news the author brings us is 
of an open human nature in an open universe. Like the work of 
the people it describes, this is a book drenched in sunlight. 


There can be no full accounting of my debt to the hundreds of 
persons who contributed to this project in various ways since 
its inception in 1976, but they know who they are and will 
recognize their input here and there. To them, and to the busy 
people who took the time to respond to the Aquarian Conspir- 
acy survey, my thanks. 

A special thank-you to Anita Storey, longtime friend and 
co-worker, for her unflagging support, insights, and humor . . . 
and to Sandra Harper, an extraordinary research assistant, 
agent of serendipity . . . and to my children, Eric, Kris, and 
Lynn Ferguson for demonstrating understanding beyond their 
years during an often trying period. 

Many who helped are quoted in the book in the context of 
their specific expertise. For dialogue, feedback, and encour- 
agement, I'm grateful to Marthe Bowling, David Bresler, Harris 
Brotman, Nancie Brown, Meg Bundick, Jo Capehart, Dorothy 
Fadiman, James Fadiman, Elaine Flint, Jerry Harper, Marjorie 
King, Jytte Lokvig, Jack McAllister, M. S. McDonald, Brendan 
O'Regan, Karen Rose, Bob Samples, Judith Skutch, Robert A. 
Smith, III, Dick Traynham, and Brian van der Horst. 

Thanks to Janice Gallagher and Victoria Pasternack for their 
dedicated editorial efforts; to Mary Lou Brady, publisher's as- 
sistant, for her friendship and liaison. 

Most of all, my profound thanks to Jeremy Tarcher, whose 
sustained editorial creativity and commitment to this project 
made him the kind of publisher writers dream about but never 
expect to find. 


Lines from the poem "Olbers' Paradox" from Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Who Are 
We Now? , copyright © 1976 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, reprinted by permission 
of New Directions. Lines from the poem "A Ritual to Read to Each Other," 
copyright © 1961 by William Stafford, from his volume Stories That Could Be 
True, reprinted by permission of Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. Lines from the 
poem "God Is a Verb," from Buckminster Fuller, No More Second-Hand God, 
reprinted by permission of the author. Lines from the poem "The Thought of 
Something Else," copyright © 1965 by Wendell Berry, from his volume Open- 
ings, reprinted by permission of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., New York. 
The passage from Gandhi the Man by Eknath Easwaran reprinted by permission 
of Nilgiri Press, Box 477, Petaluma, California 94952. 


In the early 1970s, while researching a book about the brain and 
consciousness, I was deeply impressed by scientific findings 
demonstrating human capacities well beyond our idea of “the 
norm." At that time the social implications of this research 
were essentially unexamined in science and unknown to the 
public. The research was specialized, scattered through many 
disciplines, technically written, and published two or three 
years after the fact in journals that circulate primarily to spe- 
cialty libraries. 

While science, in its objective fashion, was generating sur- 
prising data about human nature and the nature of reality, I 
saw that hundreds of thousands of individuals were coming 
upon subjective surprises of their own. Through systematic 
explorations of conscious experience, using a variety of meth- 
ods, they were discovering such*phenomena of mind as accel- 
erated learning, expanded awareness, the power of internal 
imagery for healing and problem solving, and the capacity to 
recover buried memories; insights from these explorations 
changed their values and relationships. They were reaching out 
now for any information that would help them make sense of 
their experiences. 

Perhaps because it was one of the first attempts at synthesis, 
my book, The Brain Revolution: The Frontiers of Mind Research, 
made me an unofficial clearinghouse for researchers who saw 
the implications of their findings, individuals wanting to com- 
pare notes, and media people looking for background on the 


18 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

burgeoning interest in consciousness. To meet this apparent 
need for connection and communication, in late 1975 I began 
publishing a twice-monthly newsletter, Brain IMind Bulletin, en- 
compassing research, theory, and innovation relating to learn- 
ing, health, psychiatry, psychology, states of consciousness, 
dreams, meditation, and related subjects. 

The newsletter was a lightning rod for energy I had greatly 
underestimated. The immediate response — an avalanche of ar- 
ticles, correspondence, and calls — confirmed that rapidly grow- 
ing numbers of people were exploring new territory, both in 
radical science and radical experience. As I traveled around the 
country, lecturing and covering conferences, I found these 
pioneers everywhere. And the new perspectives were being 
put to work. The social activism of the 1960s and the "con- 
sciousness revolution" of the early 1970s seemed to be moving 
toward a historic synthesis: social transformation resulting 
from personal transformation — change from the inside out. 

In January, 1976, I published an editorial, "The Movement 
That Has No Name." It said, in part: 

Something remarkable is underway. It is moving with al- 
most dizzying speed, but it has no name and eludes de- 

As Brain IMind Bulletin reports on new organizations — 
groups focusing on new approaches to health, humanistic 
education, new politics, and management — we have been 
struck by the indefinable quality of the Zeitgeist. 

The spirit of our age is fraught with paradox. It is at the 
same time pragmatic and transcendental. It values both 
enlightenment and mystery . . . power and humility ... in- 
terdependence and individuality. It is simultaneously 
political and apolitical. Its movers and shakers include in- 
dividuals who are impeccably Establishment allied with 
one-time sign-carrying radicals. 

Within recent history "it" has infected medicine, educa- 
tion, social science, hard science, even government with its 
implications. It is characterized by fluid organizations re- 
luctant to create hierarchical structures, averse to dogma. It 
operates on the principle that change can only be facili- 
tated, not decreed. It is short on manifestos. It seems to 
speak to something very old. And perhaps, by integrating 
magic and science, art and technology, it will succeed 
where all the king's horses and all the king's men failed. 

Introduction 19 

Perhaps, I wrote, the indefinable force is an idea whose time 
has come, and it is robust enough now to be named. Yet how 
could one characterize this groundswell? 

The reader response to the editorial and the requests from 
other journals for permission to reprint it confirmed that many 
were sensing and seeing the same forces. 

Months later, while outlining a not-yet-titled book about the 
emerging social alternatives, I thought again about the peculiar 
form of this movement: its atypical leadership, the patient in- 
tensity of its adherents, their unlikely successes. It suddenly 
struck me that in their sharing of strategies, their linkage, and 
their recognition of each other by subtle signals, the partici- 
pants were not merely cooperating with one another. They 
were in collusion. "It" — this movement — was a conspiracy! 

At first I was reluctant to use the term. I didn't want to 
sensationalize what was happening, and the word conspiracy 
usually has negative associations. Then I came across a book of 
spiritual exercises in which the Greek novelist, Nikos Kazant- 
zakis, said he wished to signal his comrades, "like con- 
spirators," that they might unite for the sake of the earth. The 
next day the Los Angeles Times carried an account of Canadian 
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's speech to the United Nations 
Habitat Conference in Vancouver; Trudeau quoted from a pas- 
sage in which the French scientist-priest Pierre Teilhard de 
Chardin urged a "conspiracy of love." 

Conspire, in its literal sense, means "to breathe together." It 
is an intimate joining. To make clear the benevolent nature of 
this joining, I chose the word Aquarian . Although I am unac- 
quainted with astrological lore, I was drawn to the symbolic 
power of the pervasive dream in our popular culture: that after 
a dark, violent age, the Piscean, we are entering a millennium 
of love and light — in the words of the popular song, "The Age 
of Aquarius," the time of "the mind's true liberation." 

Whether or not it was written in the stars, a different age 
seems to be upon us; and Aquarius, the waterbearer in the 
ancient zodiac, symbolizing flow and the quenching of an an- 
cient thirst, is an appropriate symbol. 

Over the next three years, a period of endless research, re- 
thinking, and revision of this book, the title got around. It 
invariably provoked a startled, amused reaction as the con- 
spirators recognized themselves and their collusion to change 
social institutions, modes of problem solving, and distribution 
of power. Some signed their letters as "co-conspirators" or 

20 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

addressed correspondence to me "c/o The Aquarian Conspir- 
acy." The label seemed fitting for the solidarity and intrigue of 
the movement. 

As its networks grew, the conspiracy became truer with 
every passing week. Groups seemed to be organizing spon- 
taneously all over the country and abroad. In their announce- 
ments and internal communications, they expressed the same 
conviction: "We are in the midst of a great transformation. ..." 
"In this period of cultural awakening . . ." Conspirators con- 
nected me with other conspirators: politicians, stewards of cor- 
porate or private wealth, celebrities, professionals trying to 
change their professions, and "ordinary" people accomplish- 
ing miracles of social change. These, in turn, put me in touch 
with still others and their networks. 

Help came in many forms: research assistance, leads, pri- 
vately circulated papers, books and articles, expertise, critiques 
of the manuscript in its various drafts, encouragement, assis- 
tance in uncovering the rich history of the transformative vi- 
sion. Those who helped wanted nothing in the way of recogni- 
tion; they only wanted others to feel what they have felt, to 
glimpse our collective potential. 

In late 1977, to check out my own assessment of the conspir- 
acy and the views of its adherents, I sent questionnaires to two 
hundred and ten persons engaged in social transformation in 
many different areas.* One hundred and eighty-five re- 
sponded. They represented many different fields and walks of 
life. Although many are well known and a few even famous, 
most are people whose names are not widely recognizable. 
Only three asked for anonymity; this is indeed an "open con- 

Participants are not identified in connection with their ques- 
tionnaire statements, although the names of many appear in 
the text because they have also expressed their views publicly. 
The conspiracy should not become associated with personal- 
ities. Once identified, individuals who have worked quietly for 
change might find it hard to function under scrutiny. More 
important, artificial distinctions might be drawn as to who is or 
is not a conspirator. Names would focus attention on the 
wrong thing; a conspirator can be anyone. 

Much as I was hesitant at first to use the word conspiracy, 
when I began writing the first draft of this book I shied away 

‘The questionnaire is summarized in Appendix A. 

Introduction 21 

from the word transformation. It connoted great, perhaps im- 
possible, change. Yet we seem to know now that our society 
must be remade, not just mended, and the concept has come 
into common usage. People speak freely of transforming this or 
that institution or procedure, and individuals are less self- 
conscious about discussing their own transformation — an on- 
going process that has changed the tenor of their lives. 

There are risks, of course, in drawing attention to the once- 
anonymous movement that has operated so effectively without 
publicity. There is always the possibility that this great cultural 
realignment will be co-opted, trivialized, exploited; indeed, 
that has already happened to some extent. And there is a 
danger that the trappings and symbols of transformation will 
be mistaken for the difficult path. 

But whatever the risks of disclosure, this conspiracy, whose 
roots are old and deep in human history, belongs to all of us. 
This book charts its dimensions — for those who belong to it in 
spirit but have not known how many others share their sense 
of possibility, and for those who despair but are willing to 
consider the evidence for hope. 

Like the charting of a new star, naming and mapping the 
conspiracy only makes visible a light that has been present all 
along but unseen because we didn't know where to look. 

Marilyn Ferguson 
Los Angeles, California 
January 1980 




After the final no there comes a yes 
And on that yes the future of the world depends. 


A leaderless but powerful network is working to 
bring about radical change in the United States. Its 
members have broken with certain key elements of 
Western thought, and they may even have broken 
continuity with history. 

This network is the Aquarian Conspiracy. It is a conspiracy 
without a political doctrine. Without a manifesto. With con- 
spirators who seek power only to disperse it, and whose 
strategies are pragmatic, even scientific, but whose perspective 
sounds so mystical that they hesitate to discuss it. Activists 
asking different kinds of questions, challenging the establish- 
ment from within. 

Broader than reform, deeper than revolution, this benign 
conspiracy for a new human agenda has triggered the most 
rapid cultural realignment in history. The great shuddering, 
irrevocable shift overtaking us is not a new political, religious, 
or philosophical system. It is a new mind — the ascendance of a 
startling worldview that gathers into its framework break- 
through science and insights from earliest recorded thought. 

The Aquarian Conspirators range across all levels of income 
and education, from the humblest to the highest. There are 
schoolteachers and office workers, famous scientists, govern- 
ment officials and lawmakers, artists and millionaires, taxi 


24 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

drivers and celebrities, leaders in medicine, education, law, 
psychology. Some are open in their advocacy, and their names 
may be familiar. Others are quiet about their involvement, be- 
lieving they can be more effective if they are not identified with 
ideas that have all too often been misunderstood. 

There are legions of conspirators. They are in corporations, 
universities and hospitals, on the faculties of public schools, in 
factories and doctors' offices, in state and federal agencies, on 
city councils and the White House staff, in state legislatures, in 
volunteer organizations, in virtually all arenas of policy-making 
in the country. 

Whatever their station or sophistication, the conspirators are 
linked, made kindred by their inner discoveries and 
earthquakes. You can break through old limits, past inertia and 
fear, to levels of fulfillment that once seemed impossible ... to 
richness of choice, freedom, human closeness. You can be 
more productive, confident, comfortable with insecurity. Prob- 
lems can be experienced as challenges, a chance for renewal, 
rather than stress. Habitual defensiveness and worry can fall 
away. It can all be otherwise. 

In the beginning, certainly, most did not set out to change 
society. In that sense, it is an unlikely kind of conspiracy. But 
they found that their lives had become revolutions. Once a 
personal change began in earnest, they found themselves re- 
thinking everything, examining old assumptions, looking 
anew at their work and relationships, health, political power 
and “experts," goals and values. 

They have coalesced into small groups in every town and 
institution. They have formed what one called "national non- 
organizations." Some conspirators are keenly aware of the 
national, even international, scope of the movement and are 
active in linking others. They are at once antennae and trans- 
mitters, both listening and communicating. They amplify the 
activities of the conspiracy by networking and pamphleteering, 
articulating the new options through books, lectures, school 
curricula, even Congressional hearings and the national media. 

Others have centered their activity within their specialty, 
forming groups within existing organizations and institutions, 
exposing their co-workers to new ideas, often calling on the 
larger network for support, feedback, back-up information. 

And there are millions of others who have never thought of 
themselves as part of a conspiracy but sense that their expe- 
riences and their struggle are part of something bigger, a larger 
social transformation that is increasingly visible if you know 

The Conspiracy 25 

where to look. They are typically unaware of the national net- 
works and their influence in high places; they may have found 
only one or two kindred spirits in their workplace, neighbor- 
hood, or circle of friends. Yet even in small groups — twos and 
threes, eights and tens — they are having their impact. 

You will look in vain for affiliations in traditional forms: polit- 
ical parties, ideological groups, clubs, or fraternal organiza- 
tions. You find instead little clusters and loose networks. There 
are tens of thousands of entry points to this conspiracy. 
Wherever people share experiences, they connect sooner or 
later with each other and eventually with larger circles. Each 
day their number grows. 

However bold and romantic this movement may seem, we 
shall see that it has evolved from a sequence of historical events 
that could hardly have led elsewhere . . . and it expresses deep 
principles of nature that are only now being described and 
confirmed by science. In its assessment of what is possible, it is 
rigorously rational. 

"We are at a very exciting moment in history, perhaps a 
turning point," said Ilya Prigogine, who won the 1977 Nobel 
prize for a theory that describes transformations, not only in 
the physical sciences but also in society — the role of stress and 
"perturbations" that can thrust us into a new, higher order. 

Science, he said, is proving the reality of a "deep cultural 
vision." The poets and philosophers were right in their intima- 
tions of an open, creative universe. Transformation, innova- 
tion, evolution — these are the natural responses to crisis. 

The crises of our time, it becomes increasingly clear, are the 
necessary impetus for the revolution now under way. And 
once we understand nature's transformative powers, we see 
that it is our powerful ally, not a force to be feared or subdued. 
Our pathology is our opportunity. 

In every age, said scientist-philosopher Pierre Teilhard de 
Chardin, man has proclaimed himself at a turning point in 
history. "And to a certain extent, as he is advancing on a rising 
spiral, he has not been wrong. But there are moments when 
this impression of transformation becomes accentuated and is 
thus particularly justified." 

Teilhard prophesied the phenomenon central to this book: a 
conspiracy of men and women whose new perspective would 
trigger a critical contagion of change. 

Throughout history virtually all efforts to remake society 
began by altering its outward form and organization. It was 
assumed that a rational social structure could produce harmony 

26 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

by a system of rewards, punishments, manipulations of power. 
But the periodic attempts to achieve a just society by political 
experiments seem to have been thwarted by human contrari- 
ness . . . and now what? 

The Aquarian Conspiracy represents the Now What. We 
have to move into the unknown: The known has failed us too 

Taking a broader view of history and a deeper measure of 
nature, the Aquarian Conspiracy is a different kind of revolu- 
tion, with different revolutionaries. It looks to the turnabout in 
consciousness of a critical number of individuals, enough to 
bring about a renewal of society. 

"We cannot wait for the world to turn," said philosopher Bea- 
trice Bruteau, "for times to change that we might change with 
them, for the revolution to come and carry us around in its new 
course. We ourselves are the future. We are the revolution." 


New perspectives give birth to new historic ages. Humankind 
has had many dramatic revolutions of understanding — great 
leaps, sudden liberation from old limits. We discovered the 
uses of fire and the wheel, language and writing. We found 
that the earth only seems flat, the sun only seems to circle the 
earth, matter only seems solid. We learned to communicate, fly, 

Each of these discoveries is properly described as a "para- 
digm shift," a term introduced by Thomas Kuhn, a science 
historian and philosopher, in his landmark 1962 book. The 
Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn's ideas are enormously 
helpful, not only because they help us understand how a new 
perspective emerges but also how and why such new views are 
invariably resisted for a time. 

A paradigm is a framework of thought (from the Greek 
paradigma, "pattern"). A paradigm is a scheme for understand- 
ing and explaining certain aspects of reality. Although Kuhn 
was writing about science, the term has been widely adopted. 
People speak of educational paradigms, paradigms for city 
planning, the paradigm shift in medicine, and so on. 

A paradigm shift is a distinctly new way of thinking about 
old problems. For example, for more than two centuries, lead- 
ing thinkers assumed that Isaac Newton's paradigm, his de- 
scription of predictable mechanical forces, would finally ex- 

The Conspiracy 27 

plain everything in terms of trajectories, gravity, force. It would 
close in on the final secrets of a "clockwork universe." 

But as scientists worked toward the elusive ultimate an- 
swers, bits of data here and there refused to fit into Newton's 
scheme. This is typical of any paradigm. Eventually, too many 
puzzling observations pile up outside the old framework of 
explanation and strain it. Usually at the point of crisis, someone 
has a great heretical idea. A powerful new insight explains the 
apparent contradictions. It introduces a new principle ... a new 
perspective. By forcing a more comprehensive theory, the crisis 
is not destructive but instructive. 

Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity formed the new 
paradigm that superseded Newton's physics. It resolved much 
unfinished business, anomalies and riddles that would not fit 
into the old physics. And it was a stunning alternative: The old 
mechanical rules were not universal; they did not hold at the 
level of galaxies and electrons. Our understanding of nature 
shifted from a clockwork paradigm to an uncertainty paradigm, 
from the absolute to the relative. 

A new paradigm involves a principle that was present all 
along but unknown to us. It includes the old as a partial truth, 
one aspect of How Things Work, while allowing for things to 
work in other ways as well. By its larger perspective, it trans- 
forms traditional knowledge and the stubborn new observa- 
tions, reconciling their apparent contradictions. 

The new framework does more than the old. It predicts more 
accurately. And it throws open doors and windows for new 

Given the superior power and scope of the new idea, we 
might expect it to prevail rather quickly, but that almost never 
happens. The problem is that you can't embrace the new 
paradigm unless you let go of the old. You can't be half- 
hearted, making the change bit by bit. "Like the gestalt 
switch," Kuhn said, "it must occur all at once." The new 
paradigm is not "figured out" but suddenly seen. 

New paradigms are nearly always received with coolness, 
even mockery and hostility. Their discoveries are attacked for 
their heresy. (For historic examples, consider Copernicus, 
Galileo, Pasteur, Mesmer.) The idea may appear bizarre, even 
fuzzy, at first because the discoverer made an intuitive leap and 
does not have all the data in place yet. 

The new perspective demands such a switch that established 
scientists are rarely converted. As Kuhn pointed out, those 
who worked fruitfully in the old view are emotionally and 

28 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

habitually attached to it. They usually go to their graves with 
their faith unshaken. Even when confronted with overwhelm- 
ing evidence, they stubbornly stick with the wrong but fa- 

But the new paradigm gains ascendance. A new generation 
recognizes its power. When a critical number of thinkers has 
accepted the new idea, a collective paradigm shift has occurred. 
Enough people have caught onto the new perspective, or have 
grown up with it, to form a consensus. After a time that 
paradigm, too, is troubled by contradictions; another break- 
through occurs, and the process repeats itself. Thus science is 
continually breaking and enlarging its ideas. 

Real progress in understanding nature is rarely incremental. 
All important advances are sudden intuitions, new principles, 
new ways of seeing. We have not fully recognized this process 
of leaping ahead, however, in part because textbooks tend to 
tame revolutions, whether cultural or scientific. They describe 
the advances as if they had been logical in their day, not at all 

In retrospect, because the bridge of explanation was laid out 
painstakingly in the years after the intuitive leap, the big ideas 
seem reasonable, even inevitable. We take them for granted — 
but at first they sounded crazy. 

By naming a sharply recognizable phenomenon, Kuhn made 
us conscious of the ways of revolution and resistance. Now that 
we are beginning to understand the dynamics of revolutionary 
insights, we can learn to foster our own healthy change and we 
can cooperate to ease the collective change of mind without 
waiting for the fever of a crisis. We can do this by asking 
questions in a new way — by challenging our old assumptions. 
These assumptions are the air we breathe, our familiar furni- 
ture. They are part of the culture. We are all but blind to them, 
yet they must give way to more fundamental perspectives if we 
are to discover what doesn't work — and why. Like the koans 
Zen masters give their novices, most problems cannot be 
solved at the level at which they are asked. They must be re- 
framed, put into a larger context. And unwarranted assump- 
tions must be dropped. 

The King in a New Yorker cartoon announces that he can so 
repair Humpty Dumpty — but he needs more horses and more 
men. In just that irrational mode we try to solve problems with 
our existing tools, in their old context, instead of seeing that 
the escalating crisis is a symptom of our essential wronghead- 

The Conspiracy 29 

For example, we ask how we are going to provide adequate 
national health insurance, given the increasingly high cost of 
medical treatment. The question automatically equates health 
with hospitals, doctors, prescription drugs, technology. In- 
stead we should be asking how people get sick in the first 
place. What is the nature of wellness? Or we argue about the 
best methods for teaching the curriculum of public schools, 
yet rarely question whether the curriculum itself is appropri- 
ate. Even more rarely have we asked, What is the nature of 

Our crises show us the ways in which our institutions have 
betrayed nature. We have equated the good life with material 
consumption, we have dehumanized work and made it need- 
lessly competitive, we are uneasy about our capacities for learn- 
ing and teaching. Wildly expensive medical care has made little 
advance against chronic and catastrophic illness while becom- 
ing steadily more impersonal, more intrusive. Our government 
is complex and unresponsive, our social support system is 
breaking at every stress point. 

The potential for rescue at this time of crisis is neither luck, 
coincidence, nor wishful thinking. Armed with a more sophis- 
ticated understanding of how change occurs, we know that 
the very forces that have brought us to planetary brinksman- 
ship carry in them the seeds of renewal. The current disequi- 
librium — personal and social — foreshadows a new kind of 
society. Roles, relationships, institutions, and old ideas are 
being reexamined, reformulated, redesigned. 

For the first time in history, humankind has come upon the 
control panel of change — an understanding of how transforma- 
tion occurs. We are living in the change of change, the time in 
which we can intentionally align ourselves with nature for 
rapid remaking of ourselves and our collapsing institutions. 

The paradigm of the Aquarian Conspiracy sees humankind 
embedded in nature. It promotes the autonomous individual in 
a decentralized society. It sees us as stewards of all our re- 
sources, inner and outer. It says that we are not victims, not 
pawns, not limited by conditions or conditioning. Heirs to evo- 
lutionary riches, we are capable of imagination, invention, and 
experiences we have only glimpsed. 

Human nature is neither good nor bad but open to continu- 
ous transformation and transcendence. It has only to discover 
itself. The new perspective respects the ecology of everything: 
birth, death, learning, health, family, work, science, spiritu- 
ality, the arts, the community, relationships, politics. 

30 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

The Aquarian Conspirators are drawn together by their 
parallel discoveries, by paradigm shifts that convinced them 
they had been leading needlessly circumscribed lives. 



As experienced by an individual, the paradigm shift might be 
compared to the discovery of the "hidden pictures" in chil- 
dren's magazines. You look at a sketch that appears to be a tree 
and a pond. Then someone asks you to look more closely — to 
look for something you had no reason to believe was there. 
Suddenly you see camouflaged objects in the scene: The 
branches become a fish or a pitchfork, the lines around the 
pond hide a toothbrush. 

Nobody can talk you into seeing the hidden pictures. You are 
not persuaded that the objects are there. Either you see them or 
you don't. But once you have seen them, they are plainly there 
whenever you look at the drawing. You wonder how you 
missed them before. 

Growing up, we experienced minor paradigm shifts — in- 
sights into the principles of geometry, for instance, or a game, 
or a sudden broadening of our political or religious beliefs. 
Each insight enlarged the context, brought a fresh way of per- 
ceiving connections. 

The opening up of a new paradigm is humbling and exhila- 
rating; we were not so much wrong as partial, as if we had 
been seeing with a single eye. It is not more knowledge, but 
a new knowing. 

Edward Carpenter, a remarkably visionary social scientist 
and poet of the late nineteenth century, described such a shift: 

If you inhibit thought (and persevere) you come at length 
to a region of consciousness below or behind thought . . . 
and a realization of an altogether vaster self than that to 
which we are accustomed. And since the ordinary con- 
sciousness, with which we are concerned in ordinary life, 
is before all things founded on the little local self ... it 
follows that to pass out of that is to die to the ordinary self 
and the ordinary world. 

It is to die in the ordinary sense, but in another, it is to 
wake up and find that the "I," one's real, most intimate 
self, pervades the universe and all other beings. 

The Conspiracy 31 

So great, so splendid, is this experience, that it may be 
said that all minor questions and doubts fall away in the 
face of it; and certain it is that in thousands and thousands 
of cases, the fact of its having come even once to an indi- 
vidual has completely revolutionized his subsequent life 
and outlook on the world. 

Carpenter captured the essense of the transformative expe- 
rience: enlargement, connection, the power to permanently 
transform a life. And, as he said, this "region of consciousness" 
opens to us when we are quietly vigilant rather than busily 
thinking and planning. 

Both accidentally and deliberately, people have had such ex- 
periences throughout history. Deep inner shifts may occur in 
response to disciplined contemplation, grave illness, wilder- 
ness treks, peak emotions, creative effort, spiritual exercises, 
controlled breathing, techniques for "inhibiting thought," 
psychedelics, movement, isolation, music, hypnosis, medita- 
tion, reverie, and in the wake of intense intellectual struggle. 

Over the centuries, in various parts of the world, technol- 
ogies for inducing such experiences were shared among a few 
initiates in each generation. Scattered brotherhoods, religious 
orders, and small groups explored what seemed to be extraor- 
dinary reaches of conscious experience. In their esoteric doc- 
trines, they sometimes wrote of the liberating quality of their 
insights. But they were too few, they had no way to dissemi- 
nate their discoveries widely, and most of earth's inhabitants 
were preoccupied with survival, not transcendence. 

Quite suddenly, in this decade, these deceptively simple sys- 
tems and their literature, the riches of many cultures, are avail- 
able to whole populations, both in their original form and in 
contemporary adaptations. Drugstore racks and airport news- 
stands offer the wisdom of the ages in paperback. University 
extension classes and weekend seminars, adult education 
courses, and commercial centers are offering techniques that 
help people connect to new sources of personal energy, inte- 
gration, harmony. 

These systems aim to fine-tune the mind and body, to ex- 
pand the brain's sensing, to bring the participants to a new 
awareness of vast untapped potential. When they work, it's 
like adding sonar, radar, and powerful lenses to the mind. 

The widespread adaptation of such techniques and the 
spread of their use throughout society were predicted in the 
1950s by P. W. Martin, when "consciousness" research was first 

32 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

under way. “For the first time in history, the scientific spirit of 
inquiry is being turned upon the other side of consciousness. 
There is a good prospect that the discoveries can be held this 
time and so become no longer the lost secret but the living 
heritage of man." 

As we will see in Chapter 2, the idea of a rapid transforma- 
tion of the human species, beginning with a vanguard, has 
been articulated by many of history's most gifted thinkers, art- 
ists, and visionaries. 

All of the systems for widening and deepening conscious- 
ness employ similar strategies and lead to strikingly similar 
personal discoveries. And now, for the first time, we know that 
these subjective experiences have their objective counterparts. 
Laboratory investigation, as we shall see, shows that these 
methods integrate the brain's activity, making it less random, 
provoking it into higher organization. Brains undergo a quite 
literal accelerated transformation . 

The transformative technologies offer us passage to cre- 
ativity, healing, choices. The gift of insight — of making imagi- 
native new connections — once the specialty of a lucky few, is 
there for anyone willing to persist, experiment, explore. 

In most lives insight has been accidental. We wait for it as 
primitive man awaited lightning for a fire. But making mental 
connections is our most crucial learning tool, the essence of 
human intelligence: to forge links; to go beyond the given; to 
see patterns, relationships, context. 

The natural consequence of these subtle sciences of the mind 
is insight. The process can be so accelerated that we are diz- 
zied, even a little frightened, by the unfolding of new pos- 
sibilities. Each empowers us to understand better and predict 
more precisely what will work in our lives. 

Little wonder that these shifts in awareness are experienced 
as awakening, liberating, unifying — transforming. Given the 
reward, it makes sense that millions have taken up such prac- 
tices within a scant few years. They discover that they don't 
have to wait for the world "out there" to change. Their lives 
and environments begin to transform as their minds are trans- 
formed. They find that they have a sane, healthy center, the 
wherewithal to deal with stress and to innovate, and that there 
are friends out there. 

They struggle to convey what has happened to them. They 
have no tidy rationale, and they may feel somewhat foolish or 
pretentious in talking about their experiences. They try to de- 
scribe a sense of awakening after years of being asleep, the 

The Conspiracy 33 

coming together of broken parts of themselves, a healing and 

For many, the reaction of friends and relatives is painfully 
patronizing, not unlike that of the elders who warn an adoles- 
cent against being too naive and idealistic. Explaining oneself is 
difficult indeed. 


Having found a core of strength and sanity within, those who 
have learned that they can trust themselves are more comfort- 
able about trusting others. Those who are cynical about change 
are usually cynical about themselves and their own ability to 
change for the better. Transformation, as we shall see, requires 
a certain minimum of trust. 

We may fear loss of control. We may suspect that we will find 
in ourselves the dark unconscious forces portrayed by religious 
teachings and Freud. We may worry that we will stray too far 
from family and friends and find ourselves alone. 

And we are sensibly afraid of getting our hopes up. We walk 
around this possibility as if it were a magician's trick. We check 
its pockets, we look for mirrors and trick panels. The more 
sophisticated we are, the more suspicious we are. After all, 
we are familiar with many brands of deception and self- 
deception — game playing, political propaganda, “putting up a 
good front," the fancy footwork of advertising. 

We have been disappointed before, swindled by promises 
that seemed — and were — too good to be true. And it is plain 
that the gold of transformation has inspired a whole generation 
of counterfeiters. 

The new array of choices seems too rich and varied; the pro- 
mise too open-ended. Our worries are our safe boundaries; 
over time we have learned to identify with our limits. Now, 
leery of trusting the promise of an oasis, we defend the merits 
of the desert. 

“The truth is," said New York Times columnist Russell Baker, 
“I don't feel good most of the time and don't want to. More- 
over, I do not comprehend why anyone else should want to." 
It's perfectly normal not to feel good, he said. In our drawerful 
of cultural biases is the conviction that unhappiness is the mark 
of sensitivity and intelligence. 

"We can learn to savor the scars of our remorse," said Theo- 
dore Roszak, "until finally we take our whole identity from 

34 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

them. That is what seems rock-solid and ultimately 'serious' to 
many of us — that harshly jaundiced candor and grim resigna- 
tion We finish by believing that sin is the reality of the 

self. . . . Even more efficiently than a police force, it is distrust of 
self that makes people vulnerable and obedient.” 

Those who worry that the new ideas will shake the culture to 
its roots are right, he said. Our conformity has been due in part 
to our fear of ourselves, our doubts about the rightness of our 
own decisions. 

The transformative process, however alien it may seem at 
first, soon feels irrevocably right. Whatever the initial mis- 
givings, there is no question of commitment once we have 
touched something we thought forever lost — our way home. 
Once this journey has begun in earnest, there is nothing that 
can dissuade. No political movement, no organized religion 
commands a greater loyalty. This is an engagement with life 
itself, a second chance at meaning. 


If these discoveries of transformation are to become our com- 
mon heritage for the first time in history, they must be widely 
communicated. They must become our new consensus, what 
"everybody knows.” 

In the early nineteenth century, Alexis de Tocqueville ob- 
served that cultural behavior and unspoken beliefs typically 
change long before people openly concede to each other that 
times have changed. Lip service is given for years — genera- 
tions — to ideas long since privately abandoned. No one con- 
spires against these old shells of belief, Tocqueville said, so 
they continue to have power and discourage innovators. 

Long after an old paradigm has lost its value, it commands a 
kind of hypocritical allegiance. But if we have the courage to 
communicate our doubts and defection, to expose the incom- 
pleteness, the rickety structure, and the failures of the old 
paradigm, we can dismantle it. We don't have to wait for it to 
collapse on us. 

The Aquarian Conspiracy is using its widespread outposts of 
influence to focus on the dangerous myths and mystiques of 
the old paradigm, to attack obsolete ideas and practices. The 
conspirators urge us to reclaim the power we long ago surren- 
dered to custom and authority, to discover, under the clutter of 

The Conspiracy 35 

all our conditioning, the core of integrity that transcends con- 
ventions and codes. 

We are benefiting from the phenomenon predicted in 1964 by 
Marshall McLuhan: the implosion of information. The planet is 
indeed a global village. No one anticipated how quickly tech- 
nology would be put to work in the service of the individual, 
how quickly we would be able to communicate and agree. The 
conformity that grieved Tocqueville is giving way to a rising 
authenticity, an epidemic unparalleled in history. 

Now we can indeed find each other. We can tell each other 
what we have abandoned, what we now believe. We can con- 
spire against the old, deadly assumptions. We can live against 

Global communications have encircled our world beyond 
any possibility of retreat. Now the whole planet is alive with 
instantaneous links, networks of people poised for communica- 
tion and cooperation. 

Those of like mind can join forces as quickly as you can 
photocopy a letter, quick-print a flyer, dial a telephone, design 
a bumpier sticker, drive across town, form a coalition, paint a 
poster, fly to a meeting ... or simply live openly in accordance 
with your change of heart. 

"Perhaps for the first time in the history of the world," said 
psychologist Carl Rogers in 1978, "people are being really 
open, expressing their feelings without fear of being judged. 
Communication is qualitatively different from our historical 
past — richer, more complex." 

Human catalysts like the Aquarian Conspirators describe the 
new options — in classrooms, on TV, in print, in film, in art, in 
song, in scientific journals, on the lecture circuit, during coffee 
breaks, in government documents, at parties, and in new orga- 
nizational policies and legislation. Those who themselves 
might have been timid about questioning the prevailing opin- 
ion take heart. 

Transformative ideas also appear in the guise of health books 
and sports manuals, in advice on diet, business management, 
self-assertion, stress, relationships, and self-improvement. Un- 
like "how-to" books of the past, these emphasize attitude, not 
behavior. Exercises and experiments are designed for direct 
experience from a new perspective. 

For only that which is deeply felt can change us. Rational 
arguments alone cannot penetrate the layers of fear and condi- 
tioning that comprise our crippling belief systems. The Aquar- 

36 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

ian Conspiracy creates opportunities wherever possible for 
people to experience shifts of consciousness. Hearts as well as 
minds must change. Communication must be not only wide 
but deep. 

Agreement can be communicated in many ways, sometimes 
even in silence, as Roszak pointed out to a large gathering in 
Vancouver in 1977 at the World Symposium on Humanity: 

In our time a secret manifesto is being written. Its language 
is a longing we read in one another's eyes. It is the longing 
to know our authentic vocation in the world, to find the 
work and the way of being that belong to each of us ... I 
speak of the Manifesto of the Person, the declaration of our 
sovereign right to self-discovery. I cannot say if those who 
have answered its summons are indeed millions, but I 
know that its influence moves significantly among us, a 
subterranean current of our history, that awakens in all 
those it touches an intoxicating sense of how deep the 
roots of the self reach, and what strange sources of energy 
they embrace 

Penetrating to the roots of fears and doubts, we can change 
radically. Individuals are beginning to sustain social concern 
and action in ways never accomplished by outer influences: 
persuasion, propaganda, patriotism, religious injunctions, 
threats, preachments of brotherhood. A new world, as the 
mystics have always said, is a new mind. 


Contemporary social critics too often speak from their own de- 
spair or a kind of cynical chic that belies their own sense of 
impotence. "Optimism is considered to be in poor taste," as 
philosopher Robert Solomon noted in Newsweek. "What seems 
to be concern betrays itself as self-indulgent, a self-righteous 
bitterness that declares society 'depraved' in order that one 
may pity oneself for being 'caught' in it. One blames the world 
for one's own unhappiness — or political failures." 

If we are to find our way across troubled waters, we are 
better served by the company of those who have built bridges, 
who have moved beyond despair and inertia. The Aquarian 
Conspirators do not hope because they know less than the 
cynics but because they know more : from personal experience, 

The Conspiracy 37 

from leading-edge science, and from grapevine news of suc- 
cessful social experiments occurring all over the world. 

They have seen change in themselves, their friends, their 
work. They are patient and pragmatic, treasuring small vic- 
tories that add up to a large cultural awakening; they know that 
opportunity appears in many guises, that dissolution and pain 
are necessary stages in renewal, and that “failures” can be 
powerfully instructive. Aware that deep change in a person or 
an institution can only come from within, they are gentle in 
their confrontation. 

They are doers and workers who face the bad news every 
day and keep working. They have chosen life, whatever the 
cost. And most of all, they now know the power they have 


Western society is at a pivotal point. Many key thinkers have 
had the paradigm shift about how paradigm shifts happen, a 
revolution in understanding how revolutions begin: in the 
ferment of questions, in the quiet recognition that the old 
won't do. 

As a serious student of the conditions necessary for revolu- 
tion, Tocqueville tried in the late 1840s to warn the governing 
powers in France about the possibility of overthrow. He was 
convinced that the government and the Court had so offended 
the people that democratic passions would soon overturn the 
government. On January 27, 1848, Tocqueville, a deputy, rose 
in the Chamber of Deputies. “They tell me that there is no 
danger because there are no disturbances," he said. “They say 
that as there is no visible perturbation on the surface of society, 
there are no revolutions beneath it. Gentlemen, allow me to say 
that I think you are wrong. Disturbance is not abroad but it has 
laid hold of men's minds." 

Within four weeks the people revolted, the king fled, and the 
Second Republic was proclaimed. 

Cultural transformation announces itself in sputtering fits 
and starts, sparked here and there by minor incidents, warmed 
by new ideas that may smoulder for decades. In many different 
places, at different times, the kindling is laid for the real 
conflagration — the one that will consume the old landmarks 
and alter the landscape forever. 

In Democracy in America Tocqueville wrote that the hallmark 

38 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

of impending revolution is a critical period of agitation, in 
which there is enough communication for a few key reformers 
to stimulate each other, for “new opinions to suddenly change 
the face of the world.” 

A revolution, as we shall see, is first visible in tendencies — 
altered behavior and trends that are easily misunderstood, ex- 
plained within the context of the old paradigm as something 
they aren't. And to confuse matters further, these new behav- 
iors may be mimicked and exaggerated by those who do not 
understand their basis in inner turnabout. All revolutions at- 
tract mercenaries, thrill seekers, and the unstable, as well as the 
truly committed. 

A revolution that is just getting under way, like a scientific 
revolution, is initially dismissed as crazy or unlikely. While it is 
clearly in progress, it seems alarming and threatening: In re- 
trospect, when power has changed hands, it appears to have 
been foreordained. 

Unaware of how values and frameworks have shifted histori- 
cally, unaware of the continuous yet radical nature of change, 
we tend to drift into and out of cultural revolutions without 
knowing who fired the first shot and why. We are untrained in 
expectancy, in feeling the tremors of coming cultural upheaval, 
in seeing subtle darkening or brightening on the horizon. 

Social, scientific, and political revolutions all take their con- 
temporaries by surprise — except for the “visionaries" who 
seem to have detected the coming change from early, sketchy 
information. Logic alone, as we shall see, is a poor prophet. 
Intuition is necessary to complete the picture. 

By definition, revolutions are not linear, one step at a time, 
event A leading to event B, and so on. Many causes operate on 
each other at once. Revolutions shift into place suddenly, like 
the pattern in a kaleidoscope. They do not so much proceed as 

"To the blind," warns an old saying, "all things are sudden." 
The revolution described in The Aquarian Conspiracy is not in the 
distant future. It is our imminent future and, in many ways, 
our dynamic present. For those who see it, the new society 
within the old is not a counterculture, not a reaction, but an 
emergent culture — the coalescence of a new social order. It has 
been characterized as a collection of "Parallel Cultures" by a 
group in England: 

We are people who agree on the need to overcome aliena- 
tion and mutual hostility in society through the strategy of 

The Conspiracy 39 

building new values-based cultures amid the existing 
ones. These new cultures will co-exist with the old and 
perhaps eventually replace them. 

We believe that organized confrontation, knocking the 
system or piecemeal reform serve only to preserve the 
basic alienation of society. . . . Most of our energies are 
going into the positive strategy of culture-building. 

We find the single dimension of Left- Centre-Right 
power struggles to be almost entirely within the old, alien- 
ated way of life. Far from being radical, the extremes are 
as much a part of the old culture as the status quo they 

The Third Way is not a group or a strategy, just a con- 
text Make no mistake, it is radical. The struggle for 

social values is a new dimension in radical social action, a 
way which is neither Right nor Left. 

The Whole Earth Papers, a series of monographs, described the 
new movement as "provolutionary ... an ascent of conscious- 
ness and paradigm shifts. . . . Our crises do not represent 
breakdown but break through in advancing the human com- 

Michael Lerner, co-founder of a California health network. 
Commonweal, reporting on efforts to call attention to en- 
vironmental stress, said, "We could not sustain this dark exca- 
vation if we did not sense that our work is another tiny part of a 

global movement Perhaps others will recognize the two 

polarities in the collective experience of our time: the stress 
caused by what we have created and called down on life, and 
the true grace of our spirit and courage as we seek a new way." 

Stress and transformation . . . these paired ideas are a theme, a 
litany, in the literature of the Aquarian Conspiracy. 

Announcing its 1978 convention in Toronto, the Association 
for Humanistic Psychology referred to "this period of extraor- 
dinary evolutionary significance The very chaos of contem- 

porary existence provides the material for transformation. We 
will search new myths and world visions." 

The energy of this movement represents a kind of "field of 
force," said Arianna Stassinopoulos, a British social critic. It is 
gathering those who, "stirred by aspirations born of the new 
ideas, begin to manifest a new force, a new consciousness, 
a new power." The ideas that begin with the few radiate to 
the many. 

The Times of London columnist Bernard Levin, remarking on 

40 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

the nearly ninety thousand who attended a 1978 “Festival for 
Mind and Body” just outside London, foresaw a rapid spread 
of popular interest in transformation: 

What the world lives by at the moment just will not do. 
Nor will it; nor do very many people suppose any longer 
that it will. Countries like ours are full of people who have 
all the material comforts they desire, yet lead lives of quiet 
(and at times noisy) desperation, understanding nothing 
but the fact that there is a hole inside them and that how- 
ever much food and drink they pour into it, however many 
motorcars and television sets they stuff it with, however 
many well-balanced children and loyal friends they parade 
around the edges of it ... it aches . 

Those who attended the festival were seeking some- 
thing — not certainty, but understanding: understanding of 
themselves. Almost every path on view began in the same 
place, inside the seeker. 

The question is being asked more insistently today than 

ever before in all history The crowds pouring through 

the turnstiles at Olympia are only the first drop in the wave 
that must soon crash over the politicians and ideologues 
and drown their empty claims fathoms deep in a self- 
confidence born of a true understanding of their own 

A 1979 symposium on the future of humanity said in its 
announcement: “Our first great challenge is to create a consen- 
sus that fundamental change is possible — to create a climate, a 
framework, which can integrally organize and coordinate the 
forces which are today striving for growth along seemingly 
separate paths. We will create an irresistibly vibrant vision, a 
new paradigm for constructive humanistic action. . . . Until we 
have created that master context, all talk of strategy is mean- 

This book is about that master context. It is a book of evi- 
dence (circumstantial in some cases, overwhelming in others), 
pointing unmistakably to deep personal and cultural change. It 
is a guide to seeing paradigms, asking new questions, under- 
standing the shifts, great and small, behind this immense 

It is about the technologies, conspirators, networks — the 
perils, ambitions, promises — of change. It is also an attempt to 

The Conspiracy 41 

show that what has been considered an elitist movement by 
some is profoundly inclusive, open to anyone who wants to be 
part of it. 

We will explore the historic roots of the idea that a conspiracy 
can generate a new society, the premonitions of transformation 
over the years. We will review the evidence that the human 
brain has awesome capacities to transform and innovate, the 
variety of methods used to foster such transformation, and 
individual accounts of experiences that have changed people's 

We will see how cultural and historic circumstances led to the 
current readiness of this society for change and how America 
had long prefigured in visions of the turning point. We will see 
the pattern of the new world through our new models of na- 
ture, stunning new insights evident in the convergence of 
many branches of science, breakthroughs that promise a new 
age of discovery. 

We will look at the undercurrents of change in politics and 
the emergence of networks as a new social form — the institu- 
tion of our age, an unprecedented source of power for indi- 
viduals. We will explore the profound paradigm shifts under 
way in health, learning, the workplace, and values. In each of 
these areas we will see evidence of the withdrawal of popular 
support from established institutions. 

We will take up the “spiritual adventure" behind the Aquar- 
ian Conspiracy, the search for meaning that becomes an end in 
itself. We will trace the powerful, often disruptive, effect of the 
transformative process on personal relationships. And, finally, 
we will consider the evidence for potential worldwide change. 

Throughout, specific projects and people will serve as illus- 
trations, although none is cited as proof or authority. Rather, 
these are bits of a great mosaic, an overwhelming new direction 
of human effort and the human spirit at this point in history. 
For many, they will serve as creative inspiration, models of 
change, options to be adapted by the individual. 

These new paradigms will raise some questions many may 
have preferred to leave unasked. Readers may confront certain 
crucial issues in their own lives. New perspectives have a way 
of altering old beliefs and values; they may penetrate denials 
and defenses of long standing. The ramifications of even a 
small personal revolution can seem more alarming to us than 
great impending cultural change. 

In the course of this journey we will come to understand 

42 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

certain powerful key ideas that can enrich and expand our 
lives, ideas that until now were mostly the province of spe- 
cialists and policymakers. 

We will construct bridges between the old and new worlds. 
When you understand the basic change taking place in any one 
major area, it is easier to make sense of the others. This discov- 
ery of a new pattern transcends explanation. The shift is qual- 
itative, sudden, the result of neurological processes too rapid 
and complex to be tracked by the conscious mind. Although 
logical explanations can be laid out up to a point, the seeing of a 
pattern is not sequential but all-at-once. If a new concept does 
not click into place for you on first encounter, read on. As you 
move through the book you will come upon many related 
ideas, connections, examples, metaphors, analogies, and illus- 
trative stories. In time, patterns will emerge, the shifts will 
occur. From the new perspective, old questions may seem sud- 
denly irrelevant. 

Once you have grasped the essence of this transformation, 
many otherwise inexplicable events and trends in the im- 
mediate environment or in the news may fall into place. It is 
easier to understand changes in one's family, one's commu- 
nity, the society. In the end we will see many of the darkest 
events in the context of a brightening historic picture, much as 
one stands back from a pointillist painting to get its meaning. 

In literature there is a trusted device known as the Black 
Moment, the point where all seems lost just before the final 
rescue. Its counterpart in tragedy is the White Moment — a 
sudden rush of hope, a saving chance, just before the inevitable 

Some might speculate that the Aquarian Conspiracy, with its 
promise of last-minute turnabout, is only a White Moment in 
Earth's story; a brave, desperate try that will be eclipsed by 
tragedy — ecological, totalitarian, nuclear. Exeunt humankind. 

And yet ... is there another future worth trying for? 

We stand on the brink of a new age, Lewis Mumford said, 
the age of an open world, a time of renewal when a fresh 
release of spiritual energy in the world culture may unleash 
new possibilities. “The sum of all our days is just our be- 

Seen with new eyes, our lives can be transformed from acci- 
dents into adventures. We can transcend the old conditioning, 
the dirt-poor expectations. We have new ways to be born, 
humane and symbolic ways to die, different ways to be rich. 

The Conspiracy 43 

communities to support us in our myriad journeys, new ways 
to be human and to discover what we are to each other. After 
our tragic wars, alienation, and the bruising of the planet, 
perhaps this is the answer Wallace Stevens meant — after the 
final No, the Yes on which the future of the world depends. 

The future, Teilhard said, is in the hands of those who can 
give tomorrow's generations valid reasons to live and hope. 
The message of the Aquarian Conspiracy is that there is ripe- 
ness for a Yes. 


Premonitions of 
and Conspiracy 

It started in the morning as I woke. In a 
dream before waking I heard a beat, a drum, a march 
from the first Neanderthal shamans through the 
Vedic seers and all the patriarchs. There was a sense that 
no one could stop it. 

—MICHAEL MURPHY, Jacob Atabet 

The emergence of the Aquarian Conspiracy in the late 
twentieth century is rooted in the myths and 
metaphors, the prophecy and poetry, of the past. 
Throughout history there were lone individuals here 
and there, or small bands at the fringes of science or religion, 
who, based on their own experiences, believed that people 
might someday transcend narrow “normal" consciousness and 
reverse the brutality and alienation of the human condition. 

The premonition was recorded, from time to time, that a 
minority of individuals would someday be yeast enough to 
leaven a whole society. Serving as a magnet culture, they 
would attract order around them, transforming the whole. 

The central idea was always the same: Only through a new 
mind can humanity remake itself, and the potential for such a 
new mind is natural. 

These courageous few have been history's radar, a Distant 
Early Warning System for the planet. As we will see, some of 

46 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

them expressed their insights in a romantic vein, others as 
intellectual concepts, but all were pointing to a larger view. 
"Open your eyes," they were saying, "there is more." More 
depth, height, dimension, perspectives, choices than we had 
imagined. They celebrated the freedom found in the larger con- 
text and warned of the dangerous blindness of the prevailing 
view. Long before global war, ecological stress, and nuclear 
crisis struck, they feared for the future of a people without a 

Although they themselves moved beyond the dominant 
ideas of fheir day, they carried few of their contemporaries with 
them. Most often they were misunderstood, lonely, even os- 
tracized. Until this century, with its rapid communication, 
there was little chance for linkage among these scattered 
individuals. Their ideas, however, served as fuel for future 

Those who had premonitions of transformation believed that 
future generations might detect the invisible laws and forces 
around us: the vital networks of relationship, the ties among all 
aspects of life and knowledge, the interweaving of people, the 
rhythms and harmonies of the universe, the connectedness 
that captures parts and makes them wholes, the patterns that 
draw meaning from the web of the world. Humankind, they 
said, might recognize the subtle veils imposed on seeing; might 
awaken to the screen of custom, the prison of language and 
culture, the bonds of circumstance. 

The themes of transformation have emerged with increasing 
strength and clarity over time, gathering impetus as communi- 
cation expanded. At first the traditions were transmitted inti- 
mately, by alchemists. Gnostics, cabalists, and hermetics. With 
the invention of moveable type in the mid-fifteenth century, 
they became a kind of open secret but were available only to the 
literate few and were often suppressed by church or state. 

Among the bold and isolated voices were Meister Eckhart, 
the German churchman and mystic of the fourteenth century; 
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola in the fifteenth; Jacob Boehme, a 
German, in the sixteenth and seventeenth; Emanuel Sweden- 
borg in the seventeenth and eighteenth. 

We are spiritually free, they said, the stewards of our own 
evolution. Humankind has a choice. We can awaken to our true 
nature. Drawing fully from our inner resources we can achieve 
a new dimension of mind; we can see more. 

"I see through the eye, not with it," said poet-engraver Wil- 
liam Blake, who lived in the late eighteenth and early nine- 

Premonitions of Transformation 47 

teenth centuries. The enemy of whole vision, he said, was our 
reasoning power's divorce from imagination, "closing itself in, 
as steel." This half-mind was forever making laws and moral 
judgments and smothering spontaneity, feeling, art. To Blake, 
his age itself stood as the accuser, characterized by fear, con- 
formity, jealousy, cynicism, the spirit of the machine. Yet this 
dark force was only a "Spectre," a ghost that could be exorcised 
from the minds it haunted. 

"I will not cease from Mental Fight," he vowed, "Till we 
have built Jerusalem/In England's green and pleasant land." 
Blake, like later mystics, saw the American and French revolu- 
tions as only initial steps toward worldwide liberation, spiritual 
as well as political. 

In 1836, nine years after Blake's death, a handful of American 
intellectuals fell into conversation at Harvard's bicentennial 
celebration, discovered their mutual interest in and excitement 
about new philosophical trends, and formed the nucleus of 
what is historically known as the American Transcendentalist 

The Transcendentalists — Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Tho- 
reau, Bronson Alcott, and Margaret Fuller, along with several 
dozen others — rebelled against what seemed the dead, dry 
intellectualism of the day. Something was missing — an invisi- 
ble dimension of reality they sometimes called the Oversoul. 
They sought understanding from many sources: experience, 
intuition, the Quaker idea of the Inner Light, the Bhagavad Gita, 
the German Romantic philosophers, historian Thomas Carlyle, 
poet Samuel Coleridge, Swedenborg, the English metaphysical 
writers of the seventeenth century. 

Their term for intuition was "transcendental reason." They 
anticipated the consciousriess research of our time in their be- 
lief that the brain's other mode of knowing is not an alternative 
to normal reasoning but a kind of transcendent logic — too fast 
and complex for us to follow with the step-by-step reasoning 
powers of our everyday consciousness. 

Just as Boehme influenced Swedenborg who influenced 
Blake, so all three influenced the Transcendentalists; the Tran- 
scendentalists, in turn, affected literature, education, politics, 
and economics for generations, influencing Nathaniel Haw- 
thorne, Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, 
John Dewey, the founders of the British Labor party, Gandhi, 
Martin Luther King. 

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, indus- 
trialism flourished. Widespread social transformation based on 

48 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

a change of heart still seemed a distant dream, but in England 
Edward Carpenter predicted that one day the tradition of the 
centuries would lose its form and outline, like melting ice in 
water. Networks of individuals would slowly form; widening 
circles would meet, overlap, and finally close around a new 
center for humankind. "Or, rather, the world-old center once 
more revealed." 

This ultimate connection would be like the linked fibers and 
nerves of a body, lying within the outer body of society. The 
networks would move toward that elusive dream, "the fin- 
ished, free society." 

Carpenter also said that the insights of the Eastern religions 
might be the seed for this great change, enlarging the Western 
view of reality. 

In Cosmic Consciousness, written in 1901, Richard Bucke, a 
Canadian physician, described the experience of an electrifying 
awareness of oneness with all life. Persons who experienced 
such states of consciousness were becoming more numerous, 
he said, walking the earth and breathing the air with us, but at 
the same time walking another earth and breathing another air 
of which we know little. "This new race is in the act of being 
bom from us, and in the near future it will occupy and possess 
the earth." 

In 1902 William James, the great American psychologist, re- 
defined religion not as dogma but as experience — the discovery 
of a new context, an unseen order with which the individual 
might achieve harmony. Our ordinary consciousness filters out 
awareness of this mysterious, enlarged dimension, yet until we 
have come to terms with its existence we must beware lest we 
make a "premature foreclosure on reality." 

Of all the creatures of earth, James said, only human beings 
can change their pattern. "Man alone is the architect of his 
destiny. The greatest revolution in our generation is that 
human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, 
can change the outer aspects of their lives." 

Gradually Western thinkers were beginning to attack the 
very foundations of Western thought. We were naive in our 
expectation that mechanistic science would explain the mys- 
teries of life. These spokesmen for a larger worldview pointed 
out how our institutions were violating nature: Our education 
and philosophy failed to value art, feelings, intuition. 

In the 1920s Jan Christian Smuts, the Boer general who was 
twice prime minister of South Africa, formulated a brilliant 
concept that anticipated many scientific breakthroughs of the 

Premonitions of Transformation 49 

late twentieth century. In Holism and Evolution, Smuts called 
attention to an invisible but powerful organizing principle in- 
herent in nature. If we did not look at wholes, if we failed to see 
nature's drive toward ever higher organization, we would not 
be able to make sense of our accelerating scientific discoveries. 

There is a whole-making principle in mind itself. Smuts said. 
Just as living matter evolves to higher and higher levels, so 
does mind. Mind, he said, is inherent in matter. Smuts was 
describing a universe becoming ever more conscious. 

The idea of expanding powers of mind unfolded in literature, 
too. “New” human beings of deeper sensibility appeared often 
in the fiction of Hermann Hesse. In his enormously popular 
novel Demian (1925), Hesse depicted a fraternity of men and 
women who had discovered paranormal abilities and an invisi- 
ble bond with one another. “We were not separated from the 
majority of men by a boundary," the narrator said, “but simply 
by another mode of vision.” They were a prototype of a differ- 
ent way of life. 

In 1927 Nikos Kazantzakis, the great Greek novelist, en- 
visioned a union of such individuals — those who might create 
for earth a brain and a heart, might “give a human meaning to 
the superhuman struggle," comrades he might signal "with a 
password, like conspirators." What we have called God is the 
evolutionary drive of consciousness in the universe, he be- 
lieved. “The new earth exists only in the heart of man." 

In The Open Conspiracy: Blueprints for a World Revolution (1928), 
novelist-historian H. G. Wells proposed that the time was 
nearly ripe for the coalescence of small groups into a flexible 
network that could spawn global change. “All this world is 
heavy with the promise of greater things," Wells once said, 
"and a day will come, one day in the unending succession of 
days, when beings who are now latent in our loins shall stand 
upon this earth as one stands upon a footstool and shall touch 
the stars." 

Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst, was drawing attention 
to a transcendent dimension of consciousness usually ignored 
in the West, the union of the intellect with the intuitive, 
pattern-seeing mind. Jung introduced an even larger context, 
the idea of the collective unconscious: a dimension of shared 
symbols, racial memory, pooled knowledge of the species. He 
wrote of the “daimon" that drives the seeker to search for 

In 1929 Alfred North Whitehead, a philosopher-math- 
ematician, published Process and Reality, a book that described 

50 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

reality as a flux whose context is the mind, rather than some- 
thing tangible "out there." He tried to articulate remarkable 
principles in nature which were formally discovered by re- 
search generations later. 

After a visit to the United States in 1931, Pierre Teilhard de 
Chardin sailed back to China from the San Francisco Bay. 1 En 
route the Jesuit paleontologist framed an essay, "The Spirit of 
the Earth," inspired by his growing conviction that a conspir- 
acy of individuals from every layer of American society was 
engaged in an effort "to raise to a new stage the edifice of life." 

Back in Peking he set forth his major thesis: Mind has been 
undergoing successive reorganizations throughout the history 
of evolution until it has reached a crucial point — the discovery 
of its own evolution. 

This new awareness — evolving mind recognizing the evolu- 
tionary process — "is the future natural history of the world." It 
will eventually become collective. It will envelop the planet and 
will crystallize as a species-wide enlightenment he called 
"Omega Point." Certain individuals, attracted to a tran- 
scendent vision of the future and to each other, seemed to be 
forming a spearhead in the "family task" of bringing humanity 
into this larger awareness. "The only way forward is in the 
direction of a common passion, a conspiracy." 

And, as he told a friend, nothing in the universe could resist 
"the cumulative ardor of the collective soul," a large enough 
number of transformed persons working together. 

Although many resist the idea that mind evolves, he said, it 
will gain eventual acceptance. "A truth once seen, even by a 
single mind, always ends by imposing itself on the totality of 
human consciousness." Evidence for this evolutionary thrust 
was issuing from all the sciences, he said, and those who re- 
fused to see it were blind. "Evolution is a condition to which all 
theories must bow, a curve all lines must follow." 

No one can call himself modern who disregards this evolu- 
tionary thrust, he said. To our descendants it will be as familiar 
and instinctive an idea as the third dimension of space is to a 

The Phenomenon of Man was limited to private circulation dur- 
ing Teilhard's lifetime because the church forbade him to pub- 

’Teilhard was the individual most often named as a profound influence by the 
Aquarian Conspirators who responded to a survey (see Introduction and 
Appendix). His books, once repressed, have now sold many millions and have 
been translated into virtually every language. The next most frequently men- 
tioned influences are Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung, and Abraham Maslow. 

Premonitions of Transformation 51 

lish it. In it, he warned that a mind awakened to this evolu- 
tionary concept may experience fear and disorientation. It must 
create a new equilibrium for everything that had once been 
tidy in its inner world. “It is dazzled when it emerges from its 
dark prison." 

There is now incontrovertible evidence that we have entered 
upon the greatest period of change the world has ever known, 
he said. "The ills from which we are suffering have had their 
seat in the very foundation of human thought. But today some- 
thing is happening to the whole structure of human conscious- 
ness. A fresh kind of life is starting." 

We are the children of transition, not yet fully conscious of 
the new powers that have been unleashed: "There is for us in 
the future not only survival but superlife.” 

Historian Arnold Toynbee said in 1935 that a creative minor- 
ity, "turning to the inner world of the psyche," could summon 
the vision of a new way of life for our troubled civilization. He 
also predicted that the most significant development of the age 
would be the influence of the Eastern spiritual perspective on 
the West. 

In the late 1930s a Polish count, Alfred Korzybski, pointed 
out yet another aspect of consciousness — language. Language 
molds thought, he said, laying out the principles of General 
Semantics. We confuse it with reality; it creates false certain- 
ties. With words we try to isolate things that can only exist in 
continuity. We fail to see process, change, movement. If we are 
to experience reality, Korzybski and his followers said, we 
must acknowledge the limits of language. 

In The Wisdom of the Heart, essays published on the eve of 
World War II, Henry Miller warned of the difficulty of express- 
ing new realities within the limits of language: 

There exist today all over the world a number of modem 
spirits who are anything but modem. They are thoroughly 
out of joint with the times, and yet they reflect the age 
more truly, more authentically than those who are swim- 
ming with the current. In the very heart of the modem 
spirit there is a schism. The egg is breaking, the chromo- 
somes are splitting to go forward with a new pattern of life. 
Those of us who seem most alien . . . are the ones who are 
going forward to create the life as yet inchoate. 

We who are affected cannot make ourselves clear. . . . 
This is the era when apocalyptic visions are to be fulfilled. 
We are on the brink of a new life, entering a new domain. 

52 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

In what language can we describe things for which there 
are as yet no new names? And how describe relations? 
We can only divine the nature of those to whom we are 
attracted, the forces to which we willingly yield obe- 
dience. . . . 

Even in the early days of the war, philosopher Martin Buber 
said he sensed a rising hunger for relatedness. "On the horizon 
I see moving up, with the slowness of all events of true human 
history, a great dissatisfaction unlike all previous dissatisfac- 
tions." Men would no longer rise in rebellion merely against 
one oppressor or another but against the distortion of a great 
yearning, "the effort toward community." 

In a 1940 letter Aldous Huxley said that although he was 
profoundly pessimistic about collective humanity at the mo- 
ment, he was "profoundly optimistic about individuals and 
groups of individuals existing on the margins of society." The 
British author, living in Los Angeles, was the hub of a kind of 
pre-Aquarian conspiracy, an international network of intellec- 
tuals, artists, and scientists interested in the notion of tran- 
scendence and transformation. They disseminated new ideas, 
supported each other's efforts, and wondered whether any- 
thing would ever come of it. Many of Huxley's interests were 
so advanced that they did not come into their own until the 
decade after his death. When such ideas were heresies, he was 
a proponent of consciousness research, decentralization in 
government and the economy, paranormal healing, the uses of 
altered awareness, visual retraining, and acupuncture. 

He was also an early supporter of Ludwig von Bertalanffy, a 
German biologist who framed a science of context he first called 
perspectivism, later General Systems Theory. This theory, 
which has grown steadily in its influence in many different 
disciplines, sees all of nature — including human behavior — as 
interconnected. According to General Systems Theory, noth- 
ing can be understood in isolation but must be seen as part of a 

In the business-as-usual postwar era, there were those who 
sensed approaching upheaval, an awakening to our cultural 
conditioning. Even as he was describing the alienation and 
conformity of The Lonely Crowd, sociologist David Riesman 
speculated that the trance might be broken. "Many currents of 
change in America escape the notice of the reporters of this 
best- reported nation on earth. . . . America is not only big and 
rich, it is mysterious, and its capacity for the humorous or 

Premonitions of Transformation 53 

ironical concealment of its interests matches that of the legend- 
ary inscrutable Chinese.” 

Reisman's book and others fostered new awareness of the 
prison of conformity. They questioned hidden assumptions 
and called attention to contradictions — the first step in breaking 
an old paradigm. 

In the mid-1950s psychoanalyst Robert Lindner touched off 
controversy by his prophetic warning that there was an im- 
pending "mutiny of the young": 

Into them we have bred our fears and insecurities, upon 
them we have foisted our mistakes and misconceptions. In 
our stead they are expressing the unrelieved rage, the ten- 
sion, and the terrible frustration of the world they were 

bom into They are imprisoned by the blunders and 

delusions of their predecessors, and like all prisoners, they 
are mutineers in their hearts. 

Must Wc Conform? asked the title of a book he wrote in 1956. 
"The answer is a resounding No! No — not only because in the 
end we are creatures who cannot . . . but no because there is an 
alternate way of life available to us here and now. It is the way 
of positive rebellion, the path of creative protest." 

The key was enlarged awareness, Lindner said — recognition 
of how we are crippled by unconscious fears and motives. "I 
believe profoundly that the tide can be turned." 

The eminent psychologist Gardner Murphy was predicting 
in the 1950s that the growing scientific curiosity about con- 
sciousness would lead to "new realms of experience." The 
more we played on "the other side of the mind," the more we 
exploited these gifts no culture had ever fully exploited, the less 
likely our old assumptions would hold — not even the ideas of 
Darwin and Freud. Radically different ideas would emerge, 
Murphy said, "and we shall fight frantically against them, of 

New ideas . . . new people. C. S. Lewis, novelist and essayist, 
described what seemed to him a kind of secret society of new 
men and women, "dotted here and there all over the earth." 
One could learn to recognize them, he said, and clearly they 
recognized each other. 

In a 1960 French best-seller, The Morning of the Magicians, 
Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier described an "open con- 
spiracy" of intelligent individuals transformed by their inner 
discoveries. The members of this network might be con tempo- 

54 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

rary stewards of a long line of esoteric wisdom, Pauwels and 
Bergier said. Had they surfaced only now from the secret tradi- 
tions of the alchemists and Rosicrucians? 

Perhaps a few were finding what many had yearned for. 
Concluding his monumental Literature and Western Man (I960), 
J. B. Priestley assessed the widespread hunger for completion. 
Schizophrenic Western culture was desperately searching for 
its center, for some balance between inner and outer life. "The 
inner world of the whole age ... is trying to compensate for 
some failure in consciousness, to restore a balance destroyed by 
one-sidedness, to reconcile the glaring opposites." 

Only religion can carry the load of the future, he said, not the 
religion of churches, but the spiritual dimension that tran- 
scends custom and politics. 

Even if we believe that the time of our civilization is run- 
ning out fast, like sugar spilled from a tom bag, we must 
wait. But while we are waiting, we can try to feel and think 
and behave as if our society were already beginning to be 
contained by religion ... as if we were finding our way 
home again in the universe. We can stop disinheriting our- 
selves. . . . We can challenge the whole de-humanizing, 
depersonalizing process that is taking the symbolic rich- 
ness, the dimension of depth out of men's lives, inducing 
the anesthesia that demands violence, crudely horrible ef- 
fects, to feel anything at all. 

Instead of wanting to look at the back of the moon, re- 
mote from our lives, we can try to look at the back of our 
own minds. 

Just behaving "as if" might show us the way home — might 
prove the step toward healing, justice, order, real community. 
"And if we only declare what is wrong with us, what is our 
deepest need, then perhaps the despair and death will, by 
degrees, disappear. ..." 

In his final novel. Island (1963), Huxley portrayed such a 
society, in which healing relied on powers of mind, extended 
"families" provided comfort and counsel, learning was rooted 
in doing and imagining, commerce bowed to ecology. To em- 
phasize the urgent need for awareness, trained mynah birds 
flew about crying "Attention! Attention!" 

Most critics reviewed Island as a spoof, less successful than 
Huxley's darker vision. Brave New World. But Huxley had not 
only described a world he believed possible but had created it 

Premonitions of Transformation 55 

as a composite of practices known to exist in contemporary 
cultures. In the words of Dr. MacPhail in Island: 

To make the best of both worlds. Oriental and European, 
the ancient and modern — what am I saying? To make the 
best of all the worlds — the worlds already realized within 
the various cultures and, beyond them, the worlds of still 
unrealized potentialities. 

Indeed, diverse cultures were impinging on each other more 
by the day. In his enormously influential Understanding Media 
(1964), Marshall McLuhan described the coming world as a 
“global village," unified by communications technology and 
rapid dissemination of information. This electrified world, with 
its instant linkage, would bear no resemblance to the preceding 
thousands of years of history. 

In this age we have become conscious of the unconscious, 
McLuhan pointed out. Although most of us still continue to 
think in the old fragmented patterns of the slow days, our 
electronic linkage brings us together "mythically and inte- 
grally." McLuhan saw coming change: Increasing numbers 
were aspiring to wholeness, empathy, deeper awareness, re- 
volting against imposed patterns, wanting people to be open. 

And we would be remade, he said, by the flood of new 

The immediate prospect for fragmented Western man en- 
countering the electric implosion within his own culture is 
his steady and rapid transformation into a complex per- 
son . . . emotionally aware of his total interdependence 
with the rest of human society. . . . 

Might not the current translation of our entire lives into 
the spiritual form of information make of the entire globe, 
and of the human family, a single consciousness? 

Introducing "World Perspectives," a series of books pub- 
lished by Harper & Row beginning in the 1960s, Ruth Ananda 
Ashen wrote of a "new consciousness" that might lift human- 
kind beyond fear and isolation. 2 We are now contending with 

2 The "World Perspectives" series included many authors whose thinking was 
influential in the Aquarian Conspiracy, among them Lancelot Law VVhyte, 
Lewis Mumford, Erich Fromm, Werner Heisenberg, Rene Dubos, Gardner 
Murphy, Mircea Eliade, Kenneth Boulding, Marshall McLuhan, Milton 
Mayerhoff, Ivan lllich and Jonas Salk. 

56 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

fundamental change since we now understand evolution itself. 
There is now abroad "a counterforce to the sterility of mass 
culture ... a new, if sometimes imperceptible, spiritual sense of 
convergence toward human and world unity." 

The new series of books was planned to encourage "a renais- 
sance of hope," to help the mind grasp what had eluded it in 
the past. Having discovered his own nature, man now has new 
choices "for he is the only creature who is able to say not only 
'no' to life but 'yes.'" 

Steadily, as increasing numbers of influential thinkers specu- 
lated on the possibilities, the transformative vision became 
more credible. 

Psychologist Abraham Maslow described an innate human 
drive beyond basic survival and emotional needs — a hunger 
for meaning and transcendence. This concept of "self-actu- 
alization" rapidly gained adherents. 

"It is increasingly clear," Maslow wrote, "that a philosophi- 
cal revolution is under way. A comprehensive system is swiftly 
developing, like a tree beginning to bear fruit on every branch 
at the same time." He described a group he thought of as 
Transcenders, "advance scouts for the race," individuals who 
far exceeded the traditional criteria for psychological health. He 
compiled a list of around three hundred creative, intelligent 
individuals and groups of individuals whose lives were marked 
by frequent "peak experiences" (a term he coined). This was 
his Eupsychean Network — literally, "of good soul." Tran- 
scenders were irresistibly drawn to each other, he said; two or 
three such people would find each other in a roomful of a 
hundred, and they were as likely to be businessmen, en- 
gineers, and politicians as poets and priests. 

In England Colin Wilson, in a 1967 postscript to his famous 
study of alienation. The Outsider, called attention to a critical 
issue being addressed quietly in the United States by Maslow 
and others: the possibility of human metamorphosis — the vi- 
sion of a world hospitable to creativity and mystical experience. 

No analogy, even that of metamorphosis, could quite capture 
the suddenness or radicalness of the transformation ahead, ac- 
cording to John Platt, a physicist at the University of Michigan. 
Only dreamers like Wells and Teilhard had seen "the enor- 
mous sweep and restructuring and unity and future of it. It is a 
quantam jump, a new state of matter." 

And this transformation would come within a generation or 
two, Platt said. "We may now be in the time of the most rapid 

Premonitions of Transformation 57 

change in the whole evolution of the human race ... a kind of 
cultural shock front." 

In 1967 Barbara Marx Hubbard, a futurist moved by 
Teilhard's vision of evolving human consciousness, invited a 
thousand people around the world, including Maslow's net- 
work, to form a "human front" of those who shared a belief in 
the possibility of transcendent consciousness. Hundreds re- 
sponded, including Lewis Mumford and Thomas Merton. Out 
of this grew a newsletter and later a loose-knit organization, 
the Committee for the Future. 

Erich Fromm, in Revolution of Hope (1968), foresaw a "new 
front," a movement that would combine the wish for profound 
social change with a new spiritual perspective; its aim would be 
the humanization of a technological world. 

Such a movement, which could happen within twenty years, 
would be nonviolent. Its constituency would be Americans al- 
ready eager for new direction, including old and young, con- 
servatives and radicals, all social classes. "The middle class has 
begun to listen and to be moved," Fromm said. Neither state 
nor political parties nor organized religion could provide either 
an intellectual or spiritual home for this thrust. Institutions 
were too bureaucratic, too impersonal. 

The key to the success of the movement would be its embodi- 
ment in the lives of its most committed members, who would 
work in small groups toward personal transformation, nourish- 
ing each other, "showing the world the strength and joy of 
people who have deep convictions without being fanatical, 
who are loving without being sentimental . . . imaginative 
without being unrealistic . . . disciplined without submission." 

They would build their own world amid the alienation of the 
contemporary social milieu. They would probably engage in 
meditation and other reflective states of consciousness to be- 
come more open, less egocentric, more responsible. And they 
would replace narrow loyalties with a wide, loving, critical con- 
cern. Their style of consumption would "serve the needs of life, 
not the needs of producers." 

The flags were going up. 

Carl Rogers described the Emerging Man; Lewis Mumford, 
the New Person, the age that would "make the Renaissance 
look like a still-birth." Jonas Salk said that humankind was 
moving into a new epoch. Evolution, he said, favors "the sur- 
vival of the wisest. . . . Who are they? What must they do? How 
can they discover themselves and others with whom to work?" 

58 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

Educator John Holt called for "a radically new kind of human 
being." Philosopher Lancelot Law Whyte stressed the urgency 
of a network: "We who already share intimations of this emer- 
gent attitude must become aware of one another . . . collect al- 
lies by timely signals." 

The only possibility for our time, said Joseph Campbell, the 
mythologist, in 1968, is "the free association of men and 
women of like spirit . . . not a handful but a thousand heroes, 
ten thousand heroes, who will create a future image of what 
humankind can be." 

In 1969 the noted French political writer Jean-Fran^ois Revel 
predicted that the United States was about to experience "the 
second great world revolution" — an upheaval that would com- 
plete the first revolution, the rise of democracy in the West. In 
Without Marx or Jesus he predicted the emergence of homo novus, 
a new human being. Revel believed that the undercurrent of 
spiritual concern in the United States, evident in the burgeon- 
ing interest in Eastern religions, presaged profound change 
in the only country on the planet free enough for bloodless 

Revel saw the coming second revolution as an emergent pat- 
tern amid the chaos of the 1960s; the social movements, the 
new mores and fashions, protests and violence. Indeed, many 
of the activists were turning inward, a direction that seemed 
heretical to their comrades in the conventional Left. They were 
saying that they could not change society until they changed 
themselves. Irving Thomas, a social activist of the 1960s, re- 
called later: 

A funny thing happened on the way to Revolution. There 
we were, beating our breasts for social change, when it 
slowly began to dawn on us that our big-deal social- 
political struggle was only one parochial engagement of a 
revolution in consciousness so large that it has been hard 
to bring it into focus within our reality. 

And Michael Rossmari, one of the leaders of the Berkeley 
Free Speech Movement, and other leaders of the supposedly 
alienated campus rebels spoke in low tones of a curious de- 
velopment. In their thrust for change they had begun to expe- 
rience "the scariness of real choice and possibility. ... There 
was a sense that the surface of reality had somehow fallen away 
altogether. Nothing was any longer what it seemed." 

Was this what it meant to make the world strange and new 

Premonitions of Transformation 59 

again? Creating and naming the movement had "alleviated the 
responsibility for facing an unsought and terrifyingly wild field 
of choice in a universe in which somehow anything had be- 
come possible." Like the sorcerers in the popular books of Car- 
los Castaneda, Rossman and his friends had succeeded, how- 
ever briefly, in "stopping the world." Confrontation was a less 
and less attractive strategy as it became more and more evident 
that, as Walt Kelly's cartoon character Pogo once observed, 
"We have met the enemy and they are us." 

When the revolution went inside, television cameras and 
newspaper reporters could not cover it. It had become, in many 
ways, invisible. 

To many of the activists idealism seemed the only pragmatic 
alternative. Cynicism had proved a self-fulfilling prophecy. 
Economist-educator Robert Theobald urged the creation of a 
new coalition, a linkage of all those committed to social change 
in an age of rapid communication. 

We live at a peculiar moment in history. If we look at the 
reality of the world from the viewpoint of the industrial 

era, it is clear that there is no hope But there is another 

way to look at our situation. We can discover the large 
number of people who have decided to change. ... If we 
do this, it seems equally impossible that we shall fail to 
solve our problems. 

We had not fallen into crisis after crisis because our ideals 
had failed but because we had never applied them, Theobald 
said. A return to the highest hopes and dreams of the Founding 
Fathers might rescue us. We determine which future we create 
by the views we hold. 

In The Transformation (1972), George Leonard described the 
current period as "unique in history," the beginning of the 
most thoroughgoing change in the quality of human existence 
since the birth of civilized states. "It does not entail throwing 
over our civilized values and practices but subsuming them 
under a higher order." 

And also in 1972 anthropologist Gregory Bateson predicted 
that the next five to ten years would be comparable to the 
Federalist period in United States history. Public, press, and 
politicians would soon be debating the new ideas, much as the 
creators of the American democracy searched for consensus in 
the eighteenth century. The efforts of the young and their 
interest in Oriental philosophy represented more sanity than 

60 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

the conventions of the establishment, Bateson said. In his 1970 
best-seller. The Greening of America, Charles Reich had focused 
on the outward symbols of change, especially the change in 
dress and lifestyle among the young; but Bateson pointed out 
that it was "not only long-haired professors and long-haired 
youth" who were thinking differently. Thousands of business- 
men and even legislators had begun wishing for such change. 

In her book. The Crossing Point (1973), M. C. Richards, artisan 
and poet, said: 

One of the truths of our time is this hunger deep in people 
all over the planet for coming into relationship with each 

Human consciousness is crossing a threshold as mighty 
as the one from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. 
People are hungering and thirsting after experience that 
feels true to them on the inside, after so much hard work 
mapping the outer spaces of the physical world. They are 
gaining courage to ask for what they need: living intercon- 
nections, a sense of individual worth, shared oppor- 

Our relationship to past symbols of authority is chang- 
ing because we are awakening to ourselves as individual 
beings with an inner rulership. Property and credentials 
and status are not as intimidating any more New sym- 

bols are rising: pictures of wholeness. Freedom sings 

within us as well as outside us Sages and seers have 

foretold this second coming. People don't want to feel 
stuck, they want to be able to change. 

Change came most easily in geographical regions with a 
well-known tolerance for experiment. California had generated 
the first waves of campus unrest in the 1960s. In the 1970s the 
state began acquiring an international reputation as centerstage 
for the new, unnamed drama. Increasing numbers of re- 
searchers and innovators, interested in the expansion of 
awareness and its implications for society, relocated on the 
West Coast. 

Jacob Needleman, professor of philosophy at San Francisco 
State University and a transplanted Easterner, warned in The 
New Religions (1973) that the nation must come to terms with 
the new spiritual- intellectual alliances in California. "Sooner or 
later we are going to have to understand California — and not 
simply from the motive of predicting the future for the rest of 

Premonitions of Transformation 61 

the country Something is struggling to be born here.” The 

West Coast, he said, was not paralyzed by the European bias 
that dominated the cynical East Coast intellectual establish- 
ment: the divorce of the human mind from the rest of the 
cosmos. "Without wishing to sound darkly mysterious, I 
would have to say that there broods over this state a strong 
sense of greater universal forces.” 

Distinguished thinkers from many disciplines were describ- 
ing an imminent transformation. The director of policy research 
at Stanford Research Institute, Willis Harman, said that if mate- 
rialism had been the philosophical base for the Old Left, spiri- 
tuality seemed likely to play that role for the New Left, a matrix 
of linked beliefs — that we are invisibly joined to one another, 
that there are dimensions transcending time and space, that 
individual lives are meaningful, that grace and illumination are 
real, that it is possible to evolve to ever higher levels of under- 

Should these new coalitions prevail, Harman said, and some 
sort of transcendental premise dominate the culture, the result 
would be a social and historical phenomenon as great and per- 
vasive as the Protestant Reformation. 

Harman was one of the group of scholars and policy analysts 
who helped write The Changing Image of Man, a landmark study 
prepared for the Charles Kettering Foundation by the Stanford 
Research Institute in 1974. This remarkable document laid the 
groundwork for a paradigm shift in understanding how indi- 
vidual and social transformation might be accomplished. "The 
emergence of a new image and/or a new paradigm can be has- 
tened or slowed by deliberate choice,” the study noted, adding 
that crisis can be stimulated. 

Despite growing scientific evidence for vast human potential, 
the study said, communicating the new image is difficult. Real- 
ity is richer and more multidimensional than any metaphor. 
But perhaps it is possible to lead people toward "the direct 
experiencing of what language can only incompletely and in- 
adequately express There does indeed appear to be a path, 

through a profound transformation of society ... to a situation 
where our dilemmas are resolvable." 

George Cabot Lodge, statesman and Harvard business pro- 
fessor, said, "The United States is in the midst of a great trans- 
formation, comparable to the one that ended medievalism and 
shook its institutions to the ground. . . . The old ideas and as- 
sumptions that once made our institutions legitimate are being 
eroded. They are slipping away in the face of a changing real- 

62 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

ity, being replaced by different ideas as yet ill-formed, con- 
tradictory, unsettling.” 

A Stanford physicist, William Tiller, said that the nameless 
movement had achieved a state of "critical mass” and could not 
be stopped. The metaphor of a critical mass was also used by 
Lewis Thomas, president of the Sloan-Kettering Institute, in 
The Lives of a Cell (1974). Only in this century were we close 
enough and numerous enough to begin the fusion around the 
earth, a process that might now move very rapidly. Human 
thought might be at an evolutionary threshold. 

Art historian Jose Arguelles described "a strange disquietude 
that permeates the psychic atmosphere, an unstable Pax 
Americana." The revolution of the 1960s had planted the seeds 
of apocalypse; the psychedelic drugs, however abused, had 
given a visionary experience of self-transcendence to a suffi- 
cient number of individuals, so that they might well determine 
the future of human development — "not a Utopia, but a collec- 
tively altered state of consciousness." 

"We are living at a time when history is holding its breath," 
said Arthur Clarke, author of Childhood's End and 2001 , "and 
the present is detaching itself from the past like an iceberg that 
has broken away from its moorings to sail across the boundless 

Carl Rogers, who in privately circulated papers predicted the 
emergence of a new kind of autonomous human being, 
acclaimed the 1976 launching by California citizens and legis- 
lators of a network called Self Determination. Even if it didn't 
spread to other states, he said, "it's a strong indication that the 
emerging individuals do, in fact, exist and are becoming aware 
of like-minded others." 

But it wasn't just California. Human Systems Management, 
an international coalition of management scientists, launched a 
network from Columbia University in New York City: "A 
search is on for special people, and they are not on any list 
which can be bought. We must seek each other out, find each 
other, link up with each other. It's not known how many we 
are, where we are. . . 

And by 1976 Theodore Roszak was saying that soon no poli- 
tics could survive unless it did justice to the spiritual subver- 
sives, "the new society within the shell of the old." The grass- 
roots, do-it-yourself revolution of Erich Fromm's prediction 
was happening ten years early. 

Networking was now a verb, and it was done by confer- 
ences, phone calls, air travel, books, phantom organizations. 

Premonitions of Transfortnation 63 

papers, pamphleteering, photocopying, lectures, workshops, 
parties, grapevines, mutual friends, summit meetings, coali- 
tions, tapes, newsletters. Funds came from grants, petty cash, 
and wealthy supporters, all with a peculiarly American prag- 
matism. Experiences and insights were shared, argued, tested, 
adapted, and shaken down into their usable elements very 

There were now networks of academics, including college 
presidents and regents, lending their clout to the idea of evolv- 
ing consciousness, and loose-knit groups of bureaucrats look- 
ing for ways to put government muscle behind the new ideas. 
A humanistic law network talked about ways to transform the 
bitter, adversarial nature of the justice system, and a low- 
profile international network of physicists engaged in studying 

The transformative vision was shared by individuals in many 
social movements — networks about madness, death and dy- 
ing, alternative birth, ecology, nutrition. A web of “holistic'' 
doctors, another of medical students and faculty on various 
campuses, formulated radical ways of thinking about health 
and disease. Maverick theologians and members of the clergy 
pondered “the new spirituality" that rose as churches declined. 
There were networks of innovative, “transpersonal" educators, 
caucuses of legislators, and a melding of economists- 
futurists-managers-engineers-systems theorists, all seeking 
creative, humanistic alternatives. A few captains of industry 
and finance. Foundation officials and university programmers, 
artists and musicians, publishers and television producers. A 
surprising clutch of celebrities. Scions of Old American Wealth. 
Ex-political radicals, minus their rhetoric, now in positions of 

In the late 1970s the circles began closing rapidly. The net- 
works overlapped, linked. There was an alarming, exhilarating 
conviction that something significant was coming together. 

Who dream the dream which all men always declare futile , Edward 
Carpenter had said. Who dream the hour which is not yet on 
earth — and lo! it strikes. 

A series of resounding clicks, and the networks became the 
long-prophesied conspiracy. 


Brains Changing, 
Minds Changing 

It is necessary; therefore, it is possible. 


In the durable Victorian fantasy, Flatland, the charac- 
ters are assorted geometric shapes living in an exclu- 
sively two-dimensional world. As the story opens, 
the narrator, a middle-aged Square, has a disturbing 

dream in which he visits a one-dimensional realm, Lineland, 

whose inhabitants can move only from point to point. With 
mounting frustration he attempts to explain himself — that he is 
a Line of Lines, from a domain where you can move not only 
from point to point but also from side to side. The angry 
Linelanders are about to attack him when he awakens. 

Later that same day he attempts to help his grandson, a Little 
Hexagon, with his studies. The grandson suggests the possibil- 
ity of a Third Dimension — a realm with up and down as well 
as side to side. The Square proclaims this notion foolish and 

That very night the Square has an extraordinary, life- 
changing encounter: a visit from an inhabitant of Spaceland, 
the realm of Three Dimensions. 

At first the Square is merely puzzled by his visitor, a peculiar 
circle who seems to change in size, even disappear. The visitor 
explains that he is a Sphere. He only seemed to change size and 


66 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

disappear because he was moving toward the Square in Space 
and descending at the same time. 

Realizing that argument alone will not convince the Square 
of the Third Dimension, the exasperated Sphere creates for him 
an experience of depth. The Square is badly shaken: 

There was a dizzy, sickening sensation of sight that was 
not like seeing; I saw a Line that was no Line; Space that 
was not Space. I was myself and not myself. When I could 
find voice, I shrieked aloud in agony, "Either this is mad- 
ness or it is Hell." 

"It is neither," calmly replied the voice of the Sphere. "It 
is Knowledge; it is Three Dimensions. Open your eyes 
once again and try to look steadily." 

Having had an insight into another dimension, the Square 
becomes an evangelist, attempting to convince his fellow 
Flatlanders that Space is more than just a wild notion of 
mathematicians. Because of his insistence he is finally impris- 
oned, for the public good. Every year thereafter the high priest 
of Flatland, the Chief Circle, checks with him to see if he has 
regained his senses, but the stubborn Square continues to insist 
that there is a third dimension. He cannot forget it, he cannot 
explain it. 

The common wisdom about transcendent moments is that 
they can never be properly communicated, only experienced. 
"The Tao that can be described is not the Tao " Communi- 

cation, after all, builds upon common ground. You might de- 
scribe purple to someone who knows red and blue, but you 
cannot describe red to someone who has never seen it. Red is 
elemental and irreducible. Neither could you describe saltiness, 
sandiness, light. 

There is an irreducible sensory aspect to those experiences 
sometimes vaguely described as transcendent, transpersonal, 
spiritual, altered, nonordinary, or peak. These sensations — 
light, connection, love, timelessness, loss of boundaries — are 
further complicated by paradoxes that confound logical de- 
scription. As the hapless Square said, in trying to describe the 
Third Dimension, "I saw a Line that was no Line." 

However futile their efforts, those who have been moved by 
such extradimensional experiences are forced to try to describe 
them in the language of space and time. They say they felt 

Brains Changing, Minds Changing 67 

something that was high or deep, an edge or an abyss, a far 
country, a frontier. No Man's Land. Time seemed fast or slow; 
the discoveries were old and new, prophetic and remembered, 
strange yet familiar. Perspective shifted sharply, if just for a 
moment, transcending the old contradictions and confusion. 

As we saw in Chapter 2, some eminently sane and distin- 
guished people believe that the human mind may have reached 
a new state in its evolution, an unlocking of potential compara- 
ble to the emergence of language. Is this awesome possibility a 
utopian dream ... or a fragile reality? 

Until a few years ago, claims that consciousness can be ex- 
panded and transformed rested on subjective evidence. Sud- 
denly, first in the handful of laboratories of a few pioneer scien- 
tists, then in thousands of experiments around the world, the 
undeniable evidence began coming forth. 

Awakening, flow, freedom, unity, and synthesis are not "all 
in the mind," after all. They are in the brain as well. Something 
in conscious functioning is capable of profound change. The 
subjective accounts have been correlated with concrete evi- 
dence of physical change: higher levels of integration in the 
brain itself, more efficient processing, different "harmonics" of 
the brain's electrical rhythms, shifts in perceptual ability. 

Many researchers say they have been shaken by their own 
findings about changes in conscious functioning because of the 
implications for widespread social change. There are hard facts 
to face, not just soft speculation. 

It would take an additional book — a library, rather — to fully 
survey the subject of this chapter and the next: the evidence of 
change; the triggers, tools, and discoveries of personal trans- 
formation; and the experiences of people undergoing the pro- 
cess here and now. In any event, transformations of conscious- 
ness are more to be experienced than studied. 

Bear in mind that these two chapters are panoramic, a 
synopsis of a vast, deep realm. They will serve their purpose if 
they convey a sense of the feelings and insights involved in the 
transformative process, if here and there they connect with 
something in the reader's life. We will look at changes of mind, 
of brain and body, of life direction. 

We need, first of all, a working definition of transformation if 
we are to grasp its power over the lives of individuals and the 
way it generates deep social change. The Aquarian Conspiracy 
is both cause and effect of such transformation. 

68 The Aquarian Conspiracy 


The term transformation has interestingly parallel meanings in 
mathematics, in the physical sciences, and in human change. A 
transformation is, literally, a forming over, a restructuring. 
Mathematical transforms, for example, convert a problem into 
new terms so that it can be solved. As we shall see later, the 
brain itself functions by complex mathematical transforms. 
In the physical sciences, a transformed substance has taken 
on a different nature or character, as when water becomes ice 
or steam. 

And of course, we speak of the transformation of people — 
specifically the transformation of consciousness. In this context 
consciousness does not mean simple waking awareness. Here 
it refers to the state of being conscious of one's consciousness. You 
are keenly aware that you have awareness. In effect, this is a 
new perspective that sees other perspectives — a paradigm 
shift. The poet e.e. cummings once rejoiced that he had found 
"the eye of my eye . . . the ear of my ear." Seeing Yourself See, 
one book title put it. This awareness of awareness is another 

Significantly, ancient traditions describe transformation as 
new seeing. Their metaphors are of light and clarity. They speak 
of insight, vision. Teilhard said that the aim of evolution is 
"ever more perfect eyes in a world in which there is always 
more to see." 

Most of us go through our waking hours taking little notice of 
our thought processes: how the mind moves, what it fears, 
what it heeds, how it talks to itself, what it brushes aside; the 
nature of our hunches; the feel of our highs and lows; our 
misperceptions. For the most part we eat, work, converse, 
worry, hope, plan, make love, shop — all with minimal thought 
about how we think. 

The beginning of personal transformation is absurdly easy. 
We only have to pay attention to the flow of attention itself. Im- 
mediately we have added a new perspective. Mind can then 
observe its many moods, its body tensions, the flux of atten- 
tion, its choices and impasses, hurting and wishing, tasting 
and touching. 

In mystical tradition, the mind-behind-the-scenes, the part 
that watches the watcher is called the Witness. Identifying with 
a wider dimension than our usual fragmented consciousness, 
this center is freer and better informed. As we'll see, this wider 

Brains Changing, Minds Changing 69 

perspective has access to universes of information processed by 
the brain at an unconscious level, realms we usually can't 
penetrate because of static or control from the surface mind — 
what Edward Carpenter called "the little, local self." 

A mind not aware of itself — ordinary consciousness — is like a 
passenger strapped into an airplane seat, wearing blinders, 
ignorant of the nature of transportation, the dimension of 
the craft, its range, the flight plan, and the proximity of other 

The mind aware of itself is a pilot. True, it is sensitive to flight 
rules, affected by weather, and dependent on navigation aids, 
but still vastly freer than the "passenger" mind. 

Anything that draws us into a mindful, watchful state has 
the power to transform, and anyone of normal intelligence can 
undertake such a process. Mind, in fact, is its own transforma- 
tive vehicle, inherently prepared to shift into new dimensions if 
only we let it. Conflict, contradiction, mixed feelings, all the 
elusive material that usually swirls around the edges of aware- 
ness, can be reordered at higher and higher levels. Each new 
integration makes the next easier. 

This consciousness of consciousness, this witness level, is 
sometimes referred to as a "higher dimension," an expression 
that has often been misunderstood. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl 
pointed out that no moral judgment is implied: 

A higher dimension is simply a more inclusive dimension . If, for 
example, you take a two-dimensional square and extend it 
vertically so that it becomes a three-dimensional cube, 
then you may say that the square is included in the 
cube. . . . Between the various levels of truth there can be 
no mutual exclusiveness, no real contradiction, for the 
higher includes the lower. 

The Square in Flatland tried to explain himself to the Line- 
landers as a "Line of Lines." Later the Sphere described him- 
self as a "Circle of Circles." As we'll see, the human transfor- 
mative process, once it begins, is geometric. In a sense, the 
fourth dimension is just this: to see the other three with new eyes. 


The idea that we have wide options of consciousness is hardly 

70 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

new. At the dawn of the Renaissance, Pico della Mirandola 

With freedom of choice and with honor, as though the 
maker and molder of thyself, thou mayest fashion thyself 
in whatever shape thou shalt prefer. Thou shalt have the 
power to generate into the lower forms of life which are 
brutish. Thou shalt have the power, out of thy soul's 
judgment, to be reborn into the higher forms 

Then, as now, philosophers argued whether human nature is 
good or evil. Today science, of all disciplines, offers us another 
oprtion: The human brain and behavior are almost unbeliev- 
ably plastic. True, we are conditioned to be afraid, defensive, 
and hostile, yet we also have the capacity for extraordinary 

Those who believe in the possibility of impending social 
transformation are not optimistic about human nature; rather, 
they trust the transformative process itself. Having experienced 
positive change in their own lives — more freedom, feelings of 
kinship and unity, more creativity, more ability to handle 
stress, a sense of meaning — they concede that others may 
change, too. And they believe that if enough individuals dis- 
cover new capacities in themselves they will naturally conspire 
to create a world hospitable to human imagination, growth, 
and cooperation. 

The proven plasticity of the human brain and human aware- 
ness offers the possibility that individual evolution may lead to 
collective evolution. When one person has unlocked a new ca- 
pacity its existence is suddenly evident to others, who may 
then develop the same capacity. Certain skills, arts, and sports, 
for example, are developed consummately in particular cul- 
tures. Even our “natural" abilities must be encouraged. Human 
beings do not even walk or talk spontaneously. If babies are 
kept in cribs in institutions with nothing to do but stare at the 
ceiling, they will walk and talk very late, if ever. These 
capacities must be released; they evolve in interaction with 
other human beings and the environment. 

We only know what the brain can do by calling on it. The 
genetic repertoire of any species includes an almost infinite 
number of potentialities, more than can be tapped by any one 
environment or during a single lifetime. As one geneticist put 
it, it's as if we all have grand pianos inside us, but only a few 
learn to play them. Just as human beings learn to defy gravity 

Brains Changing, Minds Changing 71 

in gymnastic feats or discriminate between hundreds of va- 
rieties of coffee, so we can perform gymnastics of attention and 
subtleties of interior sensing. 

Millennia ago humankind discovered that the brain can be 
teased into profound shifts of awareness. The mind can learn to 
view itself and its own realities in ways that seldom occur spon- 
taneously. These systems, tools for serious inner exploration, 
made possible the conscious evolution of consciousness. The 
growing worldwide recognition of this capacity and how it can 
be accomplished is the major technological achievement of our 

In a famous passage, William James urged his contem- 
poraries to heed such shifts: 

Our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness 
as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, while 
all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there 
lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. 

We may go through life without suspecting their exis- 
tence, but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they 
are there in all their completeness. . . . 

No account of the universe in its totality can be final 
which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite 


There are four basic ways in which we change our minds when 
we get new and conflicting information. The easiest and most 
limited of these we might call change by exception . Our old belief 
system remains intact but allows for a handful of anomalies, 
the way an old paradigm tolerates a certain number of odd 
phenomena that hang around its edges before the break- 
through to a larger, more satisfying paradigm. An individual 
who engages in change by exception may dislike all members 
of a particular group, except one or two. He may consider 
psychic phenomena nonsense yet still believe that his great- 
aunt's dreams came true. These are dismissed as "the excep- 
tions that prove the rule" instead of the exceptions that dis- 
prove the rule. 

Incremental change occurs bit by bit, and the individual is not 
aware of having changed. 

Then there is pendulum change, the abandonment of one 

72 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

closed and certain system for another. The hawk becomes a 
dove, the disenchanted religious zealot becomes an atheist, the 
promiscuous person turns into a prude — and vice versa, all the 
way around. 

Pendulum change fails to integrate what was right with the 
old and fails to discriminate the value of the new from its over- 
statements. Pendulum change rejects its own prior experience, 
going from one kind of half-knowing to another. 

Change by exception, incremental change, and pendulum 
change stop short of transformation. The brain cannot deal 
with conflicting information unless it can integrate it. One sim- 
ple example: If the brain is unable to fuse double vision into a 
single image, it will eventually repress the signals from one 
eye. The visual cells in the brain for that eye then atrophy, 
causing blindness. In the same way, the brain chooses between 
conflicting views. It represses information that does not fit with 
its dominant beliefs. 

Unless, of course, it can harmonize the ideas into a powerful 
synthesis. That is paradigm change — transformation. It is the 
fourth dimension of change: the new perspective, the insight 
that allows the information to come together in a new form or 
structure. Paradigm change refines and integrates. Paradigm 
change attempts to heal the delusion of either-or, of this-or- 

In many ways, it is the most challenging kind of change 
because it relinquishes certainty. It allows for different interpre- 
tations from different perspectives at different times. 

Change by exception says, "I'm right, except for " In- 

cremental change says, "I was almost right, but now I'm right." 
Pendulum change says, "I was wrong before, but now I'm right." 
Paradigm change says, "I was partially right before, and now I'm 
a bit more partially right." In paradigm change we realize that 
our previous views were only part of the picture — and that 
what we know now is only part of what we'll know later. 
Change is no longer threatening. It absorbs, enlarges, enriches. 
The unknown is friendly, interesting territory. Each insight 
widens the road, making the next stage of travel, the next open- 
ing, easier. 

Change itself changes , just as in nature, evolution evolves from 
a simple to a complex process. Every new occurrence alters the 
nature of those to follow, like compound interest. Paradigm 
change is not a simple linear effect, like the ten little Indians in 

Brains Changing, Minds Changing 73 

the nursery rhyme who vanish one by one. It is a sudden shift 
of pattern, a spiral, and sometimes a cataclysm. 

When we wake up to the flux and alteration of our own 
awareness we augment change. Synthesis builds on synthesis. 


Given the proper circumstances, the human brain has bound- 
less capabilities for paradigm shifts. It can order and reorder 
itself, integrate, transcend old conflicts. Anything that disrupts 
the old order of our lives has the potential for triggering a 
transformation, a movement toward greater maturity, open- 
ness, strength. 

Sometimes the perturbing element is obvious stress: a job 
loss, a divorce, serious illness, financial troubles, a death in the 
family, imprisonment, even sudden success or a promotion. Or 
it may be subtle intellectual stress: a close relationship with 
someone whose views differ markedly from those we have 
always held; a book that shakes our beliefs; or a new environ- 
ment, a foreign country. 

Personal stress as well as the collective stress of our age, the 
much-discussed future shock, can be agents of transformation, 
once we know how to integrate them. Ironically, for all our 
nostalgia for simpler times, the turbulent twentieth century 
may be driving us into the change and creativity dreamt of 
through the ages. 

The entire culture is undergoing trauma and tensions that 
beg for new order. Psychiatrist Frederic Flach, remarking on 
this historic development, quoted the English novelist Samuel 
Butler, who said in The Way of All Flesh: “In quiet uneventful 
lives, the changes internal and external are so small that there is 
little or no strain in the process of fusion and accommodation. 
In other lives there is great strain, but there is also great fusion 
and accommodating power." Flach adds: 

This power to fuse and accommodate which Butler de- 
scribed is indeed creativity. That was in 1885. Today fewer 
and fewer people find their lives quiet and uneventful. 
Changes take place at an accelerated pace and touch 
everyone in some way. In a world of increasingly complex 
stresses, personal and cultural, we can no longer afford to 

74 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

use our creative abilities only to solve specific problems 
here and there. Our health and our sanity require that we 
learn how to live lives that are genuinely creative. 

We are troubled by many things we can't fit together, the 
paradoxes of everyday life. Work should be primarily meaning- 
ful, work should pay well. Children should have freedom, 
children should be controlled. We are torn between what 
others want of us and what we want for ourselves. We want to 
be compassionate, we want to be honest. We want security, we 
want spontaneity. 

Warring priorities, stress, pain, paradoxes, conflicts — these 
prescribe their own remedies if we attend to them fully. 
When we deal indirectly with our tensions, when we stifle 
them or vacillate, we live indirectly. We cheat ourselves of 


At the level of ordinary consciousness, we deny pain and 
paradox. We doctor them with Valium, dull them with alcohol, 
or distract them with television. 

Denial is a way of life. More accurately, it is a way of di- 
minishing life, of making it seem more manageable. Denial is 
the alternative to transformation. 

Personal denial, mutual denial, collective denial. Denial of 
facts and feelings. Denial of experience, a deliberate forgetting 
what we see and hear. Denial of our capacities. Politicians deny 
problems, parents deny their vulnerability, teachers deny their 
biases, children deny their intentions. Most of all, we deny 
what we know in our bones. 

We are caught between two different evolutionary mecha- 
nisms: denial and transformation. We evolved with the ability to 
repress pain and to filter out peripheral information. These are 
useful short-term strategies that allowed our ancestors to shunt 
aside stimuli that would be too much to bear in an emergency, 
just as the fight-or-flight syndrome aroused them to cope with 
physical danger. 

The capacity for denial is an example of the body's some- 
times short-sighted vision. Some of the body's automatic re- 
sponses hurt over the long run more than they help. The for- 
mation of scar tissue, for example, prevents the nerves in the 

Brains Changing, Minds Changing 75 

spine from reconnecting after an accident. In many injuries, 
swelling causes more damage than the original trauma. And it 
is the body's hysterical overreaction to a virus, rather than the 
virus itself, that makes us ill. 

Our ability to block our experience is an evolutionary dead 
end. Rather than experiencing and transforming pain, conflict, 
and fear, we often divert or dampen them with a kind of unwit- 
ting hypnosis. 

Over a lifetime, more and more stress accumulates. There is 
no release, and our consciousness narrows. The floodlight 
shrinks into the slender beam of a flashlight. We lose the vivid- 
ness of colors, sensitivity to sounds, peripheral vision, sensitiv- 
ity to others, emotional intensity. The spectrum of awareness 
becomes ever narrower. 

The real alienation in our time is not from society but from 

Who knows where it starts? Perhaps in our earliest years, 
when we skin a knee and some kindly adult distracts us with a 
joke or a cookie. Certainly the culture does not foster the habit 
of really experiencing our experiences. But denial would prob- 
ably happen anyway because of our knack for masking what- 
ever hurts, even at the cost of consciousness. 

Avoidance is a short-term answer, like aspirin. Avoidance 
settles for chronic dull pain rather than brief acute confronta- 
tion. The cost is flexibility; just as an arm or leg contracts in 
chronic pain, so the full range of movement of consciousness 
goes into spasm. 

Denial, however human and natural a response, exacts a 
terrible price. It is as if we settled for living in the anterooms of 
our lives. And, ultimately, it doesn't work. A part of the self 
keenly feels all the denied pain. 

For most of a century, psychologists used a bureaucratic 
model of the mind: Conscious mind on top, commanding of- 
ficer; Subconscious, like an unreliable first-lieutenant; and the 
Unconscious, far below, an unruly platoon of erotic energies, 
archetypes, curiosities. It comes as a shock, then, to learn that a 
Co-conscious has been operating alongside us — a dimension of 
awareness that Stanford psychologist Ernest Hilgard has called 
the Hidden Observer. 

Laboratory experiments at Stanford have shown that another 
part of the self can acknowledge pain and other stimuli to 
which hypnotized subjects are oblivious. This aspect of con- 
sciousness is always present, always fully experiencing. And it 

76 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

can be quite readily called upon, as Hilgard's experiments 

For example, with her hand immersed in ice water, one hyp- 
notized woman steadily reported that she felt zero pain on a 
scale of zero to ten. But her other hand, with access to pencil 
and paper, reported an increase in pain: "0 ... 2 ... 4 ... 7 ... " 
Other subjects gave contradictory verbal reports, depending on 
which “self" the hypnotist summoned. 

Like stuck records, all our denied experiences and emotions 
reverberate endlessly in the other half of the self. Awesome 
energy goes into keeping this information cycling out of the 
range of ordinary awareness. Little wonder if we are fatigued, 
dis-eased, alienated. 

We have two essential strategies for coping: the way of 
avoidance or the way of attention. 

In his 1918 diary, Hermann Hesse recalled a dream in which 
he heard two distinct voices. The first told him to seek out 
forces to overcome suffering, to calm himself. It sounded like 
parents, school, Kant, the church fathers. But the second 
voice — which sounded farther off, like "primal cause" — said 
that suffering only hurts because you fear it, complain about it, 
flee it. 

You know quite well, deep within you, that there is only a 
single magic, a single power, a single salvation . . . and that 
is called loving. Well, then, love your suffering. Do not 
resist it, do not flee from it. Give yourself to it. It is only 
your aversion that hurts, nothing else. 

The pain is the aversion; the healing magic is attention. 

Properly attended to, pain can answer our most crucial ques- 
tions, even those we did not consciously frame. The only way 
out of our suffering is through it. From an ancient Sanskrit 
writing: "Do not try to drive pain away by pretending that it is 
not real. If you seek serenity in oneness, pain will vanish of its 
own accord." 

Conflict, pain, tension, fear, paradox . . . these are transfor- 
mations trying to happen. Once we confront them, the trans- 
formative process begins. Those who discover this phenome- 
non, whether by search or accident, gradually realize that the 
reward is worth the scariness of unanesthetized life. The re- 
lease of pain, the sense of liberation, and the resolution of 
conflict make the next crisis or stubborn paradox easier to con- 

Brains Changing, Minds Changing 77 


We have the biological capacity to deny our stress — or trans- 
form it by paying attention to it. Recent discoveries about the 
brain help us understand both the psychological and physio- 
logical aspects of these two choices, and why the way of atten- 
tion is a deliberate choice. 

The brain's right and left hemispheres interact all the time, 
but each also has certain functions of its own. These specialized 
functions of the hemispheres were first observed in the effects 
of injuries confined to one side of the brain or the other. Later, 
there were more sophisticated techniques to detect differences. 
Different pictures would be flashed simultaneously to the left 
and right visual fields, for example, or the left and right ears 
would hear different tones at the same time. Postmortem 
examination of brains showed subtle structural differences be- 
tween the sides. Eventually research found that brain cells pro- 
ducing certain chemicals were more concentrated on one side 
than the other. 

The hemispheres can operate independently, as two separate 
centers of consciousness. This was dramatically demonstrated 
in the 1960s and 1970s when twenty-five patients around the 
world underwent "split-brain" surgery for the treatment of se- 
vere epilepsy. The connections between hemispheres were 
severed in the hope of confining seizures to one side. 

After their recovery from the operation, the split-brain sub- 
jects, who appeared normal enough, were tested to determine 
whether there was a duality of conscious experience and to 
observe the separate functions of the two hemispheres. What 
tasks would each half-self be able to perform? What would it be 
able to describe? 

The split-brain patient indeed proved to have two minds, 
capable of independent functioning. Sometimes the left hand 
literally did not know what the right hand was doing. 

For example, the split-brain patient cannot tell the experi- 
menter the name of an object known only to the mute right 
hemisphere. 1 The subject claims not to know what the object is, 
although the left hand (controlled by the right brain) can re- 
trieve it from a pile of objects out of visual range. If the split- 
brain patient tries to copy simple shapes with the right hand 

'These functions are reversed in some people, particularly in many left- 
handers. That is, language is in the right hemisphere rather than the left, 
spatial competence in the left rather than the right, etc. 

78 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

(whose controlling left brain cannot comprehend spatial rela- 
tionships), the left hand may attempt to finish the task. 

We tend to identify the "I" with the verbal left brain and its 
operations, the part of us that can talk about and analyze expe- 
riences. The left hemisphere essentially controls speech. It 
adds, subtracts, hyphenates, measures, compartmentalizes, 
organizes, names, pigeonholes, and watches clocks. 

Although the right hemisphere has little control over the 
speech mechanism, it understands language in some way and 
gives our speech its emotional inflection. If a certain region of 
the right brain is damaged, speech becomes monotonous and 
colorless. The right hemisphere is more musical and sexual 
than the left. It thinks in images, sees in wholes, detects pat- 
terns. It seems to mediate pain more intensely than the left. 

In Marshall McLuhan's expression, the right brain “tunes" 
information, the left brain “fits" it. The left deals with the past, 
matching the experience of this moment to earlier experience, 
trying to categorize it; the right hemisphere responds to 
novelty, the unknown. The left takes snapshots, the right 
watches movies. 

The right brain makes visual closure — that is, it can identify a 
shape suggested by only a few lines. It mentally connects the 
points into a pattern. As psychologists would put it, the right 
brain completes the gestalt. It is whole-making — holistic. 

Detecting tendencies and patterns is a crucial skill. The more 
accurately we can get the picture from minimal information, 
the better equipped we are to survive. 

We use pattern-seeing in mundane ways, as when we read a 
handwritten message with partially closed letters. The ability to 
close a pattern with limited information enables the successful 
retailer or politician to detect early trends, the diagnostician to 
name an illness, the therapist to see an unhealthy pattern in a 
person or family. 

The right hemisphere is richly connected to the ancient lim- 
bic brain, the so-called emotional brain. The mysterious limbic 
structures are involved in memory processing and, when elec- 
tronically stimulated, produce many of the phenomena of al- 
tered states of consciousness. 

In the classic sense of "heart and mind," we can think of this 
right hemisphere-limbic circuit as the heart- brain. If we say, for 
example, "The heart has its reasons," we are referring to the 
deeply felt response processed by the "other side of the brain." 

For both cultural and biological reasons, the left brain seems 
to dominate awareness in most of us. In some instances, re- 

Brains Changing, Minds Changing 79 

searchers have reported, the left brain even takes over those 
tasks at which the right brain is superior. 

We confine much of our conscious awareness to the very 
aspect of brain function that reduces things to their parts. And 
we sabotage our only strategy for finding meaning because the 
left brain, in habitually cutting off conflict from the right, also 
cuts off its ability to see patterns and to see the whole. 

Without the benefit of a scalpel, we perform split-brain 
surgery on ourselves. We isolate heart and mind. Cut off from 
the fantasy, dreams, intuitions, and holistic processes of the 
right brain, the left is sterile. And the right brain, cut off from 
integration with its organizing partner, keeps recycling its emo- 
tional charge. Feelings are dammed, perhaps to work private 
mischief in fatigue, illness, neurosis, a pervasive sense of some- 
thing wrong, something missing — a kind of cosmic homesick- 
ness. This fragmentation costs us our health and our capacity 
for intimacy. As we'll see in Chapter 9, it also costs us our 
ability to learn, create, innovate. 


The raw stuff of human transformation is around and within 
us, omnipresent and invisible as oxygen. We are swimming in 
knowledge we have not claimed, all mediated by the realm of 
the brain that cannot name what it knows. 

There are techniques that can help us name our dreams and 
dragons. They are designed to reopen the bridge between right 
and left to through traffic, to increase the left brain's awareness 
of its counterpart. 

Meditation, chanting, and similar techniques increase the 
coherence and harmony in the brainwave patterns; they bring 
about greater synchrony between the hemispheres, which 
suggests that higher order is achieved. On occasion it appears 
that increasing populations of nerve cells are recruited into the 
rhythm, until all regions of the brain seem to be throbbing, as if 
choreographed and orchestrated. The usually dissynchronous 
patterns in the two sides seem to become entrained to each 
other. Brainwave activity in older, deeper brain structures may 
also show an unexpected synchrony with the neocortex. 

One example of such a technique is focusing, a method de- 
veloped by psychologist Eugene Gendlin of the University of 
Chicago. People using this technique learn to sit quietly and 
allow the feeling, or "aura," of a particular concern to well up. 

80 The Aquarian Conspiraq / 

In effect, they ask it to identify itself. Typically, after half a min- 
ute or so, a word or phrase pops into mind. If it is appropriate, 
the body responds unmistakably. As Gendlin described it: 

As these rare words come, one senses a sharpened feeling, 
or a felt relief, a felt shift, usually before one can say what 
this shift is. Sometimes such words are not in themselves 
very impressive or novel, but just these words have an 
experiential effect, and no others do. 2 

Research shows that these “felt shifts" are accompanied by a 
pronounced change in brainwave harmonics. A distinct, com- 
plex pattern seems to correlate with this experience of insight. 
The brain's activity is integrated at a higher level. And when a 
person reports feeling “stuck" there is a detectable collapse of 
those same EEG harmonics. 

Whatever lowers the barrier and lets the unclaimed material 
emerge is transformative. Recognition— literally, “knowing 
again" — occurs when the analytical brain, with its power to 
name and classify, admits the wisdom of its other half into full 

The organizing part of the brain can only understand that 
which it can fit into prior knowledge. Language draws the 
strange, the unknown, into full consciousness, and we say, 
“Of course . . 

In Greek philosophy, logos (“word") was the divine ordering 
principle, fitting the new or strange into the scheme of things. 
Whenever we name things, we structure consciousness. As we 
look at the great social transformation under way, we will see 
again and again that naming awakens new perspectives: birth 
without violence, voluntary simplicity, appropriate technol- 
ogy, paradigm shift. 

Language releases the unknown from limbo, expressing it in 
a way that the whole brain can know it. Incantations, mantras, 
poetry, and secret sacred words are all bridges that join the two 
brains. The artist faces a form, Martin Buber once said. “If he 
speaks the primary word out of his being to the form which 
appears, then the effective power streams out and the work 

2 His example of felt shift: You take off on a journey with that familiar, uneasy 
feeling that you have forgotten something. As you sit on the airplane you 
rummage through the possibilities. You may recall an item you aid indeed 
forget, but there is no sense of relief; you know that isn't it. When the “real" 
item comes to mind, there is a sharp recognition, a tangible shift, certainty that 
this was what was troubling you. 

Brains Changing, Minds Changing 81 

Given the complexity of the brain, it may be generations 
before science understands the processes that enable us to 
know without knowing that we know. But no matter; what 
counts is that something in us is wiser and better informed than 
our ordinary consciousness. With such an ally within our 
selves, why should we go it alone? 


The joining of the two minds creates something new. Whole- 
brain knowing is far more than the sum of its parts, and different 
from either. 

John Middleton Murry, the British literary critic, said that the 
reconciling of mind and heart is "the central mystery of all high 
religion." In the 1940s Murry wrote that a growing number of 
men and women were becoming "a new kind of human be- 
ing," fusing emotion and intellect. Most people, he said, turn 
away from inner conflict. They find comfort in faith, busyness, 

But there were always a few on whom these opiates failed 
to work. . . . Heart and mind in them each insisted upon its 
rights, and the claims could not be reconciled. There was a 
deadlock in the center of their being, and they passed 
steadily into a condition of isolation, abandonment and 
despair. Their inward division was complete. 

Then came, out of that extreme and absolute division, a 
sudden unity. A new kind of consciousness was created in 
them. Mind and Heart, which had been irreconcilable 
enemies, became united in the Soul, which loved what it 
knew. The inward division was healed. 

Murry called this new knowing the soul. 3 Over the centuries, 
accounts of transcendental experience often described it as a 
mysterious "center," the penetration of some unknown but 
central realm. 4 This transcendent center is in the lore of all 
cultures, represented in mandalas, in alchemy, in the king's 

3 Nikos Kazan tzakis talked about harmonizing and modulating "both opposing 
forces" in the brain. From a transcendent peak you can see the brain's battle, he 
said; we must besiege every cell of the brain because that is where God is jailed, 
"seeking, trying, hammering to open a gate in the fortress of matter." 

4 Charles Lindbergh, describing an extraordinary mystical experience on his 
famous flight, said he felt "caught in the gravitational field between two 

82 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

chamber in pyramids (“fire in the middle”)/ the sanctum 
sanctorum, the holy of holies. ”We sit around in a ring and 
suppose,” wrote Robert Frost, ”But the Secret sits in the mid- 
dle and knows.” 

The escape from the prison of the two minds — the task of 
transformation — is the great theme pervading Hesse's novels: 
Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund, The Glass Bead Game, De- 
mian, and Siddhartha . In 1921 he said that he hoped the spiritual 
wave from India would offer his culture “a corrective, refresh- 
ment from the opposite pole.” Europeans unhappy with their 
overspecialized intellectual climate were not turning so much 
toward Buddha or Lao-tse, he said, as toward meditation, "a 
technique whose highest result is pure harmony, a simulta- 
neous and equal cooperation of logical and intuitive thinking.” 
The East contemplated the forest; the West counted the trees. 
Yet the need for completion emerges as a theme in the myths of 
all cultures. They wanted it all — and many transcended the 
split. The mind that knows the trees and the forest is a new 

The power of true center must be the most frequently mislaid 
artifact of human wisdom. It is as if the same message keeps 
washing ashore, and no one breaks the bottles, much less the 
code. True, Hesse said, many German professors were nervous 
that the intellectual West would drown in a Buddhist deluge. 
"The West, however,” he observed dryly, "will not drown." 
Indeed, for all practical purposes, the West has only recently 
noticed the bottles that keep washing ashore and felt the tide 
that carries them. 

Enumerating the variety of spiritual paths, Aldous Huxley 
urged "the central door" rather than purely intellectual or 
purely practical ways. "The best of both worlds . . . the best of 
all worlds." There is more to balance, as one Eastern thinker 
recently remarked, than not falling over. 

The thrill of the new perspective cannot be sustained for an 
indefinite period. Inevitably and often, the individual lapses 
into old positions, old polarities, old ways. In Mount Analog, 
Rene Daumal described the slipping back: 

You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come 
down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: 
What is above knows what is below, but what is below 
does not know what is above. 

Brains Changing, Minds Changing 83 

One climbs, one sees, one descends; one sees no longer, 
but one has seen. 

There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the 
memory of what one saw higher up: “When one can no longer 
see, one can at least still know." 

We live — as we shall see in the next chapter — by what we 
have seen. 



People Changing 

There is only one history of importance 
and it is the history of what you once believed in and the history 
of what you came to believe in. 


Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. 


The difference between transformation by accident 
and transformation by a system is like the difference 
between lightning and a lamp. Both give illumina- 
tion, but one is dangerous and unreliable, while the 
other is relatively safe, directed, available. 

The intentional triggers of transformative experiences are 
numberless, yet they have a common quality. They focus 
awareness on awareness — a critical shift. For all their surface 
variation, most focus on something too strange, complex, dif- 
fuse, or monotonous to be handled by the brain's analytical, 
intellectual half: on breathing, repetitious physical movement, 
music, water, a flame, a meaningless sound, a blank wall, a 
koan, a paradox. The intellectual brain can only dominate 
awareness by affixing itself to something definite and bounded. 
If it is captured by a diffuse, monotonous focus, the signals 
from the other side of the mind can be heard. 

Among the triggers of such experiences reported by the indi- 
viduals who responded to the Aquarian Conspiracy question- 



The Aquarian Conspiracy 

• Sensory isolation and sensory overload, because sharply 
altered input causes a shift in consciousness. 

• Biofeedback — the use of machines that feed back tones or 
visual readouts of body processes like brainwave activity, 
muscle activity, skin temperature — because learning to 
control these processes requires an unusually relaxed and 
alert state. 

• Autogenic training, an approach that originated in Europe 
more than fifty years ago — self-suggestions that the body 
is becoming relaxed, "breathing itself." 

• Music (sometimes in combination with imagery or medita- 
tion), because of the brain's sensitivity to tone and tempo 
and because music engages the right hemisphere. Chant- 
ing. Painting, sculpting, pottery, and similar activities that 
give a creator a chance to become lost in the creation. 

• Improvisational theatre, with its requirement of both total 
attention and spontaneity. Psychodrama, because it forces 
an awareness of roles and role playing. Contemplation of 
nature and other aesthetically overwhelming experiences. 

• The "consciousness-raising" strategies of various social 
movements that call attention to old assumptions. 

• Self-help and mutual-help networks — for example. Al- 
coholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and their 
counterparts, whose twelve rules include paying attention 
to one's conscious processes and to change, acknowledg- 
ing that one can choose behavior, and cooperating with 
"higher forces" by looking inward. 

• Hypnosis and self-hypnosis. 

• Meditation of every description: Zen, Tibetan Buddhist, 
chaotic, Transcendental, Christian, Kabbalist, kundalini, 
raja yoga, tantric yoga, etc. Psychosynthesis, a system that 
combines imagery and a meditative state. 

• Sufi stories, koans, and dervish dancing. Various sha- 
manic and magical techniques, which focus attention. 

• Seminars like est, Silva Mind Control, Actualizations, and 
Lifespring, which attempt to break the cultural trance and 
open the individual to new choices. 

• Dream journals, because dreams are the most available 
medium for information from beyond the range of ordi- 
nary consciousness. 

• Arica, Theosophy, and Gurdjieffian systems, which syn- 

Crossover: People Changing 87 

thesize many different mystical traditions and teach tech- 
niques for altering awareness. 

• Contemporary psychotherapies, like Viktor Frankl's 
Logotherapy, which involves a search for meaning and the 
use of “paradoxical intention/' the direct confrontation of 
the source of fear. Primal Therapy and its spin-offs, which 
summon up experiences of early childhood pain. The 
Fischer-Horfman process, a similar reentry into childhood 
anxieties, followed by an intense use of imagery for recon- 
ciliation with and forgiveness of one's parents for any neg- 
ative early experiences. Gestalt therapy, the gentle forcing 
through of patterns of recognition, or paradigm shifts. 

• Science of Mind, an approach to healing and self-healing. 

• A Course in Miracles, an unorthodox contemporary ap- 
proach to Christianity based on a profound shift in per- 

• Countless body disciplines and therapies: hatha yoga, 
Reichian, the Bates system for vision improvement, T'ai Chi 
Ch'uan, aikido, karate, running, dance, Rolfing, bio- 
energetics, Feldenkrais, Alexander, Applied Kinesiology. 

• Intense experiences of personal and collective change at 
Esalen in Big Sur, sensitivity groups at Washington's Na- 
tional Training Laboratories, encounter groups, informal 
groups of supportive friends. 

• Sport, mountain-climbing, river-running, and similar 
physically exhilarating activities, which cause a qualitative 
shift in the sense of being alive. Wilderness retreats or 
solitary flying or sailing, which foster self-discovery and a 
sense of timelessness. 

All of these approaches might be called psychotechnologies — 
systems for a deliberate change in consciousness. Individuals 
may independently discover a new way of paying attention 
and may learn to induce such states by methods of their own 
devising. Anything can work. 1 

As William James noted three-quarters of a century ago, the 

'Much of the criticism of the psychotechnologies is based on the apparent 
contradictions between the behavior of individuals and their claims of personal 
change. Many people discuss their purported new awareness as if it were the 
latest film or diet; yet even this phase may precede real change. Some people 
feel as if they are changing in ways not evident to others. Still others go 
through apparent negative change, periods of withdrawal or emotionality, 
before achieving a new equilibrium. We can only guess about the changes in 

88 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

key to expanded awareness is surrender. As the struggle is 
abandoned, it is won. "To go faster, you must slow down," 
said the hero of Shockwave Rider, John Brunner's novel of the 
future. A biofeedback researcher, chief of psychiatry at a fa- 
mous medical center, told his colleagues, "You can only win 
these races by taking your foot off the accelerator." 

The complexity of a method should not be confused with its 
effectiveness. Highly structured disciplines and intricate sym- 
bolism may benefit some, while others go through rapid 
change with simple technology. An approach that works for a 
while may suddenly seem inappropriate, or a method may 
seem to be making no significant difference, but in retrospect, 
one realizes that something important has happened. 

Our nervous systems are organized in different ways, we are 
in varying states of health, and we have different histories of 
introspection, dreaminess, rigidity, anxiety. Just as there are 
natural athletes, so there are individuals to whom shifts of 
consciousness come easily. A diffuse, relaxed state of attention, 
the key to all these approaches, need not be coerced, only 
permitted. Effort interferes with the process, and some people 
have difficulty just letting go. 

Many people seem to be neurologically resistant to the 
psychotechnologies, perhaps because they were more sensitive 
to pain as children or experienced more noxious input. They 
are likelier to have cut off the more emotionally responsive, 
pain-sensitive right hemisphere. Others are more resilient — 
perhaps because they were born innovators and explorers, 
have more flexible temperaments, or learned to cope with fear 
and pain early in life. 

Because of the initial advantage or disadvantage in differing 
nervous systems, it seems at first that the rich get richer and the 
poor get discouraged. But improvement comes for everyone, 
just as practice makes us more adept skiers or swimmers, 
whatever our inherent talent. 

Like physical exercise, the technologies are progressive in 
their effect, but you don't lose brain changes the way you lose 
muscle development if you don't persist. "No mirror becomes 
iron again," said Sufi poet Rumi, "no ripe grape becomes sour 

another person; transformation is not a spectator sport. And we may even 
misread what has happened in ourselves, realizing only in retrospect that an 
important shift has occurred; or we may think we have changed forever in 
some way only to find ourselves lapsing on occasion into old thought patterns 
and behaviors. 

Crossover: People Changing 89 


No system promises a shift from ordinary human fragmenta- 
tion to twenty-four-hour-a-day clarity. Transformation is a 
journey without a final destination. But there are stages in the 
journey, and they are surprisingly mappable, based on 
thousands of historical accounts and the proliferating reports of 
contemporary seekers. Some traps, caves, quicksand, and 
dangerous crossings are unique to the individual journey, but 
there are deserts, peaks, and certain strange buttes observed by 
nearly everyone who persists. Recognizing, then, that the map 
is not the transformational territory, we will describe the pro- 
cess in terms of four major stages. 

The first stage is preliminary, almost happenstance: an entry 
point. In most cases, the entry point can only be identified in 
retrospect. Entry can be triggered by anything that shakes up 
the old understanding of the world, the old priorities. Some- 
times it is a token investment, made out of boredom, curiosity, 
or desperation — a ten-dollar book, a hundred- dollar mantra, a 
university extension course. 

For a great many, the trigger has been a spontaneous mysti- 
cal or psychic experience, as hard to explain as it is to deny. Or 
the intense alternative reality generated by a psychedelic drug. 

It is impossible to overestimate the historic role of psyche- 
delics as an entry point drawing people into other transforma- 
tive technologies. For tens of thousands of "left-brained" en- 
gineers, chemists, psychologists, and medical students who 
never before understood their more spontaneous, imaginative 
right-brained brethren, the drugs were a pass to Xanadu, espe- 
cially in the 1960s. 

The changes in brain chemistry triggered by psychedelics 
cause the familiar world to metamorphose. It gives way to 
rapid imagery, unaccustomed depths of visual perception and 
hearing, a flood of "new" knowledge that seems at once very 
old, a poignant primal memory. Unlike the mental states pro- 
duced by dreaming or drinking, psychedelic awareness is not 
fuzzy but many times more intense than normal waking con- 
sciousness. Only through this intensely altered state did some 
become fully aware of the role of consciousness in creating their 
everyday reality. 

Those who ingested psychedelics soon found that the his- 
toric accounts closest to their own experiences derived either 
from mystical literature or from the wonderland of theoretical 
physics — complementary views of "the all and the void," 

90 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

the very real dimension that cannot be measured in miles or 

As one chronicler of the sixties remarked, "LSD gave a whole 
generation a religious experience." But chemical satori is 
perishable, its effects too overwhelming to integrate into 
everyday life. Non-drug psychotechnologies offer a controlled, 
sustained movement toward that spacious reality. The annals 
of the Aquarian Conspiracy are full of accounts of passages: 
LSD to Zen, LSD to India, psilocybin to Psychosynthesis. 

For whatever glories the mushrooms and saturated sugar 
cubes contained, they were only a glimpse — coming attrac- 
tions, but not the main feature. 

The entry-point experience hints that there is a brighter, 
richer, more meaningful dimension to life. Some are haunted 
by that glimpse and drawn to see more. Others, less serious, 
stay near the entry point, playing with the occult, drugs, 
consciousness-altering games. Some are afraid to go on at all. 
Confronting the nonrational is unnerving. Here the unfettered 
mind suffers a kind of agoraphobia, a fear of its own awesome 
spaces. Those with a strong need to control may be frightened 
by touching a realm of multiple realities, multiple ways of see- 
ing. They would rather keep to their right/wrong, black/white 
version of the world. They repress insights that contradict the 
old belief system. 

Some hesitate because they don't know where to turn next. 
Fear of criticism stops others. They might look foolish, preten- 
tious, even crazy, to family, friends, co-workers. They worry 
that the journey inward will seem narcissistic or escapist. In- 
deed those who persist past the entry point have to overcome a 
pervasive culture bias against introspection. The search for 
self-knowledge is often equated with self-importance, with a 
concern for one's own psyche at the expense of social responsi- 
bility. The popular criticism of psychotechnologies is typified 
by the term "the new narcissism," from a Harper's article by 
Peter Marin, and the "Me Decade," a pejorative introduced by 
Tom Wolfe in New York magazine. 2 

Philosopher William Bartley remarked that it is odd that the charge of social 
and political irresponsibility should ever have been leveled at the conscious- 
ness movement, especially since so many of the social movements have bor- 
rowed its techniques. “There is nothing narcissistic," he said, “about attempt- 
ing to transcend those things in life that lead people to narcissism." 

The excesses of some of those involved in the psychotechnologies — the 
extravagant claims of hucksters and true believers, the tyranny of some pur- 
ported teachers and gurus — antagonize public opinion. A wide and deep social 

Crossover: People Changing 91 

The isolation of those new to the transformative process is 
deepened by their inability to explain how they feel and why 
they are going on. If they try to describe the discovery of a kind 
of inner “all-rightness" — a potentially whole and healthy self 
waiting to be liberated — they are afraid of sounding egotistical. 

There is a fear of being jilted. The knowledge from these 
experiences is often elusive, hard to reconstruct. What if these 
insights were only phantoms . . . illusions? In the past we have 
believed promises that were broken. We have seen mirages of 
fresh hope dissolve as we reach for them. The memory of these 
betrayals, large and small, says, “Don't trust. . . 

Even more common, as Abraham Maslow noted, is the fear 
of our own higher potentialities. “We enjoy and even thrill to 
the godlike possibilities we see in ourselves in peak moments. 
And yet we simultaneously shiver with weakness, awe, and 
fear before these same possibilities." An apparent lack of 
curiosity is often a defense. “Fear of knowing is very deeply a 
fear of doing," Maslow said. Knowledge carries responsibility. 

There is a fear of the self, an unwillingness to trust our deep- 
er needs. We worry that an impulsive aspect might take over. 
Suppose we find that what we really want of life is dangerously 
different from what we have. And there is a related fear that we 
will be sucked into a maelstrom of unusual experiences and, 
worse yet, that we might like them. Or we might become com- 
mitted to some demanding discipline; if we were to take up 
meditation, we might start getting up at five in the morning or 
become vegetarian. 

Man is afraid of things that cannot harm him, says a Hasidic 
scripture, and craves things that cannot help him. "But actually 
it is something within him that he is afraid of, and it is some- 
thing within him that he craves." We fear and crave becoming 
truly ourselves. 

Somewhere at the entry point we know that if we pursue this 
Holy Grail, nothing will ever be quite the same. We can always 
turn back from the entry point. The opportunity for retreat is at 
hand, like the emergency door atop the Space Mountain ride in 
Disneyland, an exit for those with second thoughts. 

phenomenon is misunderstood by the magnifying of the sensational, the 
trivial, the least representative. Similarly, the psychotechnologies are some- 
times criticized because of individual casualties, people who have psychotic 
breaks. Too much sun is sunburn, but we don't blame the sun. These systems 
tap into a power source that can be abused. 

Mutual criticism and self-criticism within the consciousness movement ad- 
dress these problems with more rigor and concern than do the outside critics. 

92 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

The second stage, for those who go on, is exploration — the 
Yes after the final No. Warily or enthusiastically, having sensed 
that there is something worth finding, the individual sets out to 
look for it. The first serious step, however small, is empower- 
ing and significant. The quest, as one spiritual teacher put it, is 
the transformation. 

This exploration is the "deliberate letting" psychologist 
Eugene Gendlin describes. This letting permits the inner 
knowledge to come forward. It is an intentional release, as 
when we deliberately relax our grip on something. The grip is 
the contraction of our consciousness, our psychic spasm, which 
must be loosened before anything can change. 

The psychotechnologies are designed to free that tight hold 
so that we might become buoyant, the way a lifeguard detaches 
the panicky grip of a drowning person so that he might be 

Ironically, we go after transformative experiences in the only 
way we know how: as consumers, competitors, still operating 
from the values of the old paradigm. We may compare our 
experiences to others, wonder if we're "doing it right," getting 
there fast enough, making progress. We may be trying to repli- 
cate one particularly rewarding or moving experience. During 
this phase some individuals try many techniques and teachers, 
like comparison shoppers. In an age of supersonic travel and 
satellite communication, we tend to expect instant gratification, 
instant feedback, instant news. The process of transformation 
may be simmering underground like a geyser, but we cannot 
see it and are impatient for action. 

Some fall at first into pendulum change. The initial method, 
e.g.. Transcendental Meditation, running, est, Rolfing, is seen 
as the panacea for the world's ills. All other systems are dis- 

In this false dawn of certainty, there is often eager proselytiz- 
ing. The would-be evangelists quickly learn that no single sys- 
tem works for eveiyone. And the methods themselves — by 
repeated focusing of awareness — eventually lead to the realiza- 
tion that there will be no ultimate answers. 

As science fiction writer Ray Bradbury said, "We all go on the 
same Search, looking to solve the old Mystery. We will not, of 
course, ever solve it. We will climb all over it. We will, finally, 
inhabit the Mystery. ..." 

In the third stage, integration, the mystery is inhabited. Al- 
though there may be favorite methods or teachers, the indi- 
vidual trusts an inner "guru." 

Crossover: People Changing 93 

During the earlier stages there was probably some disso- 
nance, sharp conflict between new beliefs and old patterns. 
Like the troubled society struggling to remake itself with old 
tools and structures, the individual tries at first to improve the 
situation rather than change it, to reform rather than transform. 

Now there may be oscillation between exhilaration and lone- 
liness because fear centers on the disruptive effect the trans- 
formative process may be having on the old itinerary: career 
direction, relationships, goals, and values. . . . There is a new 
self in an old culture. But there are new friends, new rewards, 
new possibilities. 

A different kind of work is undertaken in this period — more 
reflective than the busy seeking of the exploration stage. Just as 
a paradigm shift in science is followed by a mopping-up opera- 
tion, a pulling together of loose strands into the new 
framework, so those who undergo personal transformation 
have a left-brain need to know. Intuition has leaped ahead of 
understanding. What really happened? The individual experi- 
ments, refines, tests ideas, shakes them down, sharpens, 

Many explore subjects they had no former interest in or ap- 
titude for in an attempt to learn something about shifts in con- 
scious experience. They may look into philosophy, quantum 
physics, music, semantics, brain research, psychology. From 
time to time, the neophyte ''scientist” draws back for a period 
of assimilation. The opening has been immense. Everything 

Ironically, while there is less need now for external validation 
or justification, self-questioning may reach the level of inquisi- 
tion. Usually the individual emerges from such reevaluation 
with a new strength and sureness, grounded in purpose. 

At entry point the individual discovered that there are other 
ways of knowing. In exploration he found that there are sys- 
tems to bring about that other knowing. In integration, having 
seen that many of his old habits, ambitions, and strategies are 
not appropriate to his new beliefs, he learned that there are 
other ways of being. 

Now in the fourth stage, conspiracy, he discovers other 
sources of power, and ways to use it for fulfillment and in 
service to others. Not only does the new paradigm work in his 
own life, but it seems to work for others. If the mind can heal and 
transform, why can't minds join to heal and transform society? 

Earlier, when he was attempting to communicate the ideas of 
transformation, it was mostly to explain himself or to draw 

94 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

friends and family into the process. Now the great social impli- 
cations become apparent. 

This is a conspiracy to enable transformation — not to impose 
it on those who are neither ripe nor interested, but to make it 
possible for those who are hungry for it. Michael Murphy, 
co-founder of Esalen, suggested that the disciplines themselves 
conspire for renewal. “Let's make that conspiracy apparent! 
We can turn our daily common life into the dance the world is 
meant for." 

Paradoxically, there may be a hiatus in social activism during 
this period while the individual assesses responsibilities, roles, 
direction. After all, if he has the power to change society, even 
in some small way, he had better pay attention. The whole idea 
of leadership, power, and hierarchy is rethought. There is the 
fear of destroying the great chance for social transformation by 
falling into old behavior — defensiveness, egotism, or timidity. 

No narrative of a transformative process can be fairly de- 
scribed as typical, since each is as unique as a fingerprint. But 
the movement from stage to stage is a story frequently re- 

A young clinical psychologist at a state hospital appended to 
his Aquarian Conspiracy questionnaire a four-page letter that 
classically described the process we have been discussing. 
First, the entry point: 

In the spring of 1974 I was just finishing my master's thesis 
from a behavioral perspective in psychology One eve- 

ning another graduate student and I decided to experiment 
with LSD. During the evening 1 had an experience that I 
was hard-pressed to explain or describe — the sudden feel- 
ing of a vortex opening in my head and ending somewhere 
above me. I began to follow this with my awareness. As I 
got further up I began losing control and felt much pres- 
sure and noise as well as bodily feelings of floating, zoom- 
ing, etc. All of a sudden I popped out of the vortex. 
Whereas before I had been looking around at a not-very 
attractive married-housing campus complex, there now 
stood before me the same buildings, incredibly beautiful in 
ways I still can't describe. There was an order, complexity, 
and simplicity, as if everything made sense in and of itself 
with the other elements of the environment. In the core of 
this experience I had the strong sensation that it was not 
just the result of taking the drug. 

Crossover: People Changing 95 

During the days that followed, he asked fellow students and 
professors about the experience and was “immediately labeled 
a freak." As he continued questioning, one graduate student 
urged him several times to read the Don Juan books by Carlos 
Castaneda. At first he was skeptical. “I considered myself to be 
very scientific, and this stuff about an Indian sorcerer was 
too way-out for me." But he was desperate for an answer. He 
gave up his intellectual protests and entered the next stage, 

I picked up the first book and within pages found that 
someone knew of the same experiences. I began to read all 
the books and decided to specialize in this area for my 
doctoral exams and dissertation. At this point I was not 
sure what I was going to specialize in as I did not know the 
name of what I was searching for. 

After a summer of reading and furthering my experien- 
tial research, I had settled on my task: to utilize meditation 
as a standardized procedure for exploring human con- 

That summer he began to keep a journal of his thoughts and 
experiments and studied his own perceptual changes under the 
effects of LSD (ten sessions); he also used various strategies to 
achieve dramatic alterations of consciousness. Negative and 
sometimes frightening episodes led him to drop the drugs and 
curb the psychic games. "Meditation was a safer, surer way 
toward deep and stable exploration and change." A period of 
integration began in late 1974: 

During the fall and spring I continued my personal search 
using meditation as the vehicle. I was writing a position 
paper for my doctoral exams on meditation and conscious- 
ness. I tried some of the things I was reading about, like 
out-of-body experiences, and decided there was a reality 
there — one I wasn't ready for. Besides, I knew from my 
reading that meditation was supposed to be practiced in a 
more productive manner. 

Notice, he is more serious. He is no longer intrigued by para- 
normal abilities and tricks, wondering what he can learn to do, 
but now asks what he can be. 

One night he had an extraordinary experience. He meditated 
before going to sleep and awoke to see a three-dimensional 

96 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

circular pattern pulsing in his visual field. The next day he 
drew pictures of the design, which he later identified as a 
yantra, a pattern used for contemplation in Eastern spiritual 
disciplines. When he learned that Carl Jung had written about 
the emergence of such patterns from the collective uncon- 
scious, he felt even more strongly that he could argue the psy- 
chological importance of meditation phenomena, even with the 
most skeptical professors in his graduate school. 

In 1975 he did his dissertation on an experimental study of 
persons using meditation, relaxation training, and biofeedback. 
He was able to translate his findings to his dissertation commit- 
tee, which included "a very structured behavioral psycholo- 
gist" and a professor deeply involved in consciousness studies. 

In 1976 he went to work at a state hospital. By 1977 he found 
himself in the fourth stage, conspiracy: 

I guess the rest of my account at this point is directed 
toward synthesis and entry into what you're calling the 
Aquarian Conspiracy. I want to continue my work in 
transpersonal- psychology, meditation, biofeedback, and 
music meditation, while staying in mainstream clinical 

I have worked consistently toward raising the transper- 
sonal banner at this hospital — slowly, because this state is 
not in the progressive swing the Bay Area and Los Angeles 
are in. However, the work with music meditation has 
progressed to the point where the hospital has given us a 
grant ... I heard yesterday from interested people at an 
Ohio institution and today from Washington. 

I'm very pleased at the direction my meditation has 
taken me and try to remember to "hasten slowly" on this 
path. Little by little we are permeating the clinical fabric of 
treatment here. . . . We're using the experimental program 
in the Intensive Treatment Unit and find it works even 
with seriously ill schizophrenics. 

Later he joined forces with a staff psychiatrist (an Oklaho- 
man who had once spent time at a Zen center in California) and 
a psychology intern. The three had worked for more than a 
year on the need for reforming the overcrowded state hospital. 
Frustrated by the continuing resistance of the administration, 
they presented their ideas to a top state official in charge of 

The official heard them out, then gave them a very straight 
look. "Maybe you can pull it off." And then he startled them by 

Crossover: People Changing 97 

quoting from Carlos Castaneda, "Maybe this is your cubic cen- 
timeter of chance." 3 

The reorganization plan was adopted, virtually intact. The 
state mandated an application of the psychotechnologies in 
clinical care. An internal furor resulted, supervisors were shuf- 
fled around or removed, and the psychologist was asked to 
take a post as administrator of one of the units. He finally said 
no. "I realized that I didn't really want the money or status — 
that I really want to just work with patients." 

He is now in private clinical practice and is a consultant to a 
state prison. He also serves on a state board charged with 
evaluating mental health facilities. 

It has been interesting to watch myself through this recent 
change in my life as I have really stepped off the 
cliff. . . . It's weird to watch my own risk-taking, not know- 
ing where it will end up. The old negative feeling of poten- 
tial failure is always around the corner, but my stronger 
feeling of centeredness always outshines these pesky crea- 
tures of the dark. I will look for my next cubic centimeter. 

Neither typical nor unusual, the passage from casual ex- 
perimentation to serious interest to commitment to conspiracy. 


The psychotechnologies — picks, pitons, compasses, binocu- 
lars — have aided in the rediscovery of inner landmarks vari- 
ously named across cultures and across time. To understand 
more about the transformative process, we will look at these 
vistas. The discoveries, as we shall see, are mutually depen- 
dent and mutually reinforcing; they cannot be sharply isolated 
from each other. They are not sequential, either; some occur 
simultaneously. They deepen and change as well; none is 
finished once and for all. 

Historically, transformation has been described as an awaken- 
ing, a new quality of attention. And just as we marvel that we 
could have mistaken our dream world for reality once we have 

3 From journey to Ixtlan: "All of us, whether or not we are warriors, have a cubic 
centimeter of chance that pops out in front of our eyes from time to time. The 
difference between an average man and a warrior is that the warrior is aware of 
this, and one of his tasks is to be alert, deliberately waiting, so that when 
his cubic centimeter pops out he has the necessary speed, the prowess, to pick 
it up." 

98 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

come out of sleep, so those who experience an enlarged aware- 
ness are surprised that they had thought themselves awake 
when they were only sleepwalking. 

Each man, said Blake, is haunted until his humanity awakes. 
"If the doors of perception were cleansed, we would see the 
world as it is, infinite." And the Koran warns, "Men are asleep. 
Must they die before they awake?" 

The enlarged state of awareness reminds many of expe- 
riences in childhood when all the senses were sharp and open, 
when the world seemed crystalline. Indeed, individuals who 
preserve an urgent wakefulness into adulthood are rare. Sleep 
researchers have discovered that most adults show physiologi- 
cal signs of sleepiness throughout their waking hours — and feel 
that this state is perfectly normal. 

In his famous "Ode on the Intimations of Immortality" Wil- 
liam Wordsworth described the gradual shutdown of our 
senses: The glory and the dream fade, the prison-house closes 
in after childhood, and custom lies on us "heavy as frost." 

The prison is our fragmenting, controlling, fretting atten- 
tion — planning, remembering, but not being. In our need to 
cope with everyday concerns, we forfeit our awareness of the 
miracle of awareness. As the apostle Paul put it, we see through 
a glass darkly, not face to face. 

Again and again, the metaphor for new life is awakening. We 
have been dead in the womb, not born. 

One of the Aquarian Conspirators, a wealthy real-estate en- 
trepreneur, reported in his questionnaire: 

It was at Esalen, my first trip there several years ago. I had 
just had a Rolfing session, and I walked outdoors. 

Suddenly I was overwhelmed by the beauty of every- 
thing I saw. This vivid, transcendent experience tore apart 
my limited outlook. I had never realized the emotional 
heights possible. In this half-hour solitary experience I felt 
unity with all, universal love, connectedness. This smash- 
ing time destroyed my old reality permanently. 

He asked, as many have asked, "If this happened to me once, 
why not again?" 

A new understanding of self is discovered, one that has little 
resemblance to ego, self-ishness, self-lessness. There are mul- 
tiple dimensions of self; a newly integrated sense of oneself as 
an individual ... a linkage with others as if they are one- 

Crossover: People Changing 99 

self . . . and the merger with a Self yet more universal and 

On an individual level, we discover a self that does not com- 
pete. It is as curious as a child, delighted with testing its chang- 
ing powers. And it is fiercely autonomous. It seeks self- 
knowledge, not gain, knowing it will never probe its own 
furthest reaches. As one recovered alcoholic put it, "The only 
person I need to be is myself. I can be really good at that. In 
fact, I can never fail if I am simply me and let you be you." 

Redefining the self defuses competition. "The joy of this 
quest is not in triumph over others," Theodore Roszak said, 
"but in the search for the qualities we share with them and for 
our uniqueness, which raises us above all competition." 

Self-knowledge is science; each of us is a laboratory, our only 
laboratory, our nearest view of nature itself. "If things go 
wrong in the world," Jung said, "something is wrong with me. 
Therefore, if I am sensible, I shall put myself right first." 

The self released by the transformative process gathers in 
aspects that had been disenfranchised. Sometimes this is expe- 
rienced by a woman as the capacity to act (the masculine prin- 
ciple), by a man as the emergence of nurturant feelings (the 
feminine principle). The reunion is picturesquely described in 
Buddhist literature as sahaja, "born together." As the innate 
nature reasserts itself, emotional turbulence diminishes. Spon- 
taneity, freedom, poise, and harmony seem to increase. "It's 
like becoming real," said one respondent to the questionnaire. 

We have been split at every level, unable to make peace with 
contradictory thoughts and feelings. Shortly before his suicide, 
poet John Berryman expressed the universal wish: "Unite my 
various soul. . . ." When we respect and accept the fragmented 
identities, there is reunion and rebirth. 

If there is rebirth, what dies? The actor, perhaps. And 
illusions — that one is a victim, or right, or independent, or 
capable of obtaining all the answers. Illusionectomy can be a 
painful operation, but there are profound rewards. "You shall 
know the truth," says a character in Brunner's Shockwave Rider, 
"and the truth shall make you you." 

One Aquarian Conspirator spoke of experiencing "an inter- 
nal momentum, a greater competence that seems to come from 
greater emotional openness, from being able to call on all as- 
pects of oneself. When we say a person is powerful, we seem to 
be talking about an unapologetic self. It has nothing to do with 
position, either. Anyone can be powerful in this way." 

An editor of a Boston-based magazine wrote that her most 

100 The Aquarian Conspiraa ) 

vivid transformative experience was learning to see without the 
glasses she had worn for eighteen years. Using a method of 
mental stress-reduction designed by William Bates, she had a 
"flash" of clear vision. 

As I had that first flash, a strong force inside me seemed to 
be saying, "Now that you've let us see a little, we insist on 
seeing perfectly." I realized that we're all whole and per- 
fect right now and we just don't experience that wholeness 
because we've covered it up. It takes less energy to be free 
and flowing than to be locked up in stress, and something 
inside us is dying to experience and express that flow. We 
learn by releasing and letting go, not by adding on. 

This perfection, this wholeness, does not refer to superior 
achievement, moral rectitude, personality. It is not comparative 
and not even personal. Rather, it is an insight into nature — the 
integrity of form and function in life itself, connection with a 
perfect process. If only briefly, we recognize ourselves as chil- 
dren of nature, not as strangers in the world. 

Beyond the personal reunification, the inner reconnection, 
the re-annexing of lost portions of oneself, there is the connec- 
tion to an even larger Self — this invisible continent on which 
we all make our home. In his Aquarian Conspiracy question- 
naire, a university professor told of being deeply affected by a 
long stay in remote areas of the Indonesian islands where he 
felt "a kind of magical circle, an unbroken unity with all life and 
cosmic processes, including my own life." 

The separate self is an illusion. Several of the respondents to 
the questionnaire remarked on giving up the belief that they 
were encapsulated individuals. A psychologist said that she 
had to give up the idea of a striving self — "that T existed in the 
way I had naively supposed, and that T would be crowned 
finally with enlightenment." 

The self is a field within larger fields. When the self joins the 
Self, there is power. Brotherhood overtakes the individual like 
an army . . . not the obligatory ties of family, nation, church, but 
a living, throbbing connection, the unifying I-Thou of Martin 
Buber, a spiritual fusion. This discovery transforms strangers 
into kindred, and we know a new, friendly universe. 

There are new meanings to old words like "fellowship" and 
"community." "Love" may enter the vocabulary with increas- 
ing frequency; for all its ambiguity, its connotations of senti- 
mentality, no word in English better approximates the new 
sense of caring and connectedness. 

Crossover: People Changing 101 

There emerges a new and different social consciousness, ex- 
pressed by one man in terms of hunger and starvation: 

I can no longer protect myself from the reality of starvation 
by pretending that people who starve are nameless, face- 
less strangers. I know now who they are. They're just like 
me, only they're starving. I can no longer pretend that the 
collection of political agreements we call "countries" sepa- 
rates me from the child who cries out in hunger halfway 
around the world. We are one, and one of us is hungry. 

The group is the self of the altruist, someone once said. Sharp- 
ened empathy, a sense of participation in all of life, more sor- 
row, more joy, and an unsettling awareness of the multiplicity 
and complexity of causes make it hard to be self-righteous and 

Even beyond the collective Self, the awareness of one's link- 
age with others, there is a transcendent, universal Self. The 
passage from what Edward Carpenter called the "little, local 
self" to the Self that pervades the universe was also described 
by Teilhard as his first journey into "the abyss": 

I became aware that I was losing contact with myself. At 
each step of the descent a new person was disclosed within 
me of whose name I was no longer sure and who no longer 
obeyed me. And when I had to stop my exploration be- 
cause the path faded beneath my steps, I found a bottom- 
less abyss at my feet, and out of it comes — arising I know 
not from where — the current which I dare to call my life. 

The fourth dimension is not another place; it is this place, and it 
is immanent in us, a process. 

The importance of process is another discovery. Goals and end- 
points matter less. Learning is more urgent than storing infor- 
mation. Caring is better than keeping. Means are ends. The 
journey is the destination. 

We begin to see the ways in which we have postponed life, 
never paying attention to the moment. 

When life becomes a process, the old distinctions between 
winning and losing, success and failure, fade away. Every- 
thing, even a negative outcome, has the potential to teach us 
and to further our quest. We are experimenting, exploring. In 
the wider paradigm there are no "enemies," only those useful, 
if irritating, people whose opposition calls attention to trouble 
spots, like a magnifying mirror. 

102 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

Old sayings, once only poetry, now seem profoundly true. 
Like St. Catherine of Siena: "All the way to heaven is heaven." 
Cervantes: "The road is better than the inn." Garcia Lorca: "I 
will never arrive at Cordoba." C. P. Cavafy: "Ithaca has given 
you the beautiful voyage" . . . and Kazantzakis: "Ithaca is the 
voyage itself." 

When you enjoy the trip, life is more fluid, less segmented; 
time is more circular and subtle. As process assumes impor- 
tance, former values begin to shift, like wavy lines in a sheet- 
glass mirror. The focus changes: What was large may become 
small, distant, and what was trivial may loom like Gibraltar. 

And we discover that everything is process. The solid world is a 
process, a dance of subatomic particles. A personality is a col- 
lection of processes. Fear is a process. A habit is a process. A 
tumor is a process. All of these apparently fixed phenomena 
are recreated every moment, and they can be changed, reor- 
dered, transformed in myriad ways. 

The bodymind connection is a discovery that relates to process. 
Not only does the body reflect all the historical and present 
conflicts of the mind, but the reorganization of one helps reor- 
ganize the other. Psychotechnologies like Reichian therapy, 
bioenergetics, and Rolfing effect their transformations by re- 
structuring and realigning the body. Intervention anywhere in 
the dynamic bodymind loop affects the whole. 

A young trainee in a bodywork method called Neuro- 
kinesthetics described his own transformation: 

I'm amazed at how my life has changed and is still chang- 
ing. The physical changes are numerous and I'm learning 
to pick up bodily cues from different systems, even those 
that are supposed to be autonomic. At the same time, my 
interaction with people is improving. . . . 

In the early 1970s my friends and I were dissatisfied with 
the world. Our "solutions" were radical, rhetorical intel- 
lectualizations, basically studies in frustration. We knew 
the world had to change, but our answers weren't satisfac- 
tory because we weren't dealing with human suffering at 
the proper level. 

We cannot take charge of a situation if we can't control 
the environment — that is, our own bodies, physical, men- 
tal, and spiritual. That's true suffering. 

We don't need to be uptight. We can be in harmony with 
the environment, seeing the world from a clear perspec- 

Crossover: People Changing 103 

tive. As our bodies learn to flow, the more freely we can 
relate to other selves, to other people, to situations. 

More consciousness means more awareness of the body. As we 
become more sensitive to the moment-to-moment, day-to-day 
effects of stressful emotions on the body, the subtle ways in 
which illness expresses conflict, we learn to deal with stress 
more directly. We discover our ability to handle stress, even 
when it escalates, by a different way of responding. 

The body can also be a medium of transformation. In testing 
our limits in sport, dance, exercise we discover that the physi- 
cal self is a changing, fluid, plastic bioelectrical system, not a 
thing. Like the mind, it harbors astonishing potentials. 

One of the sweetest discoveries is freedom — passage to 
the place described in the Upanishads as "beyond grief and 

In our own biology is the key to the prison, the fear of fear, 
the illusion of isolation. Whole-brain knowing shows us the 
tyranny of culture and habit. It restores our autonomy, inte- 
grates our pain and anxiety. We are free to create, change, 
communicate. We are free to ask "Why?" and "Why not?" 

"Just the fact of being slightly more aware changes the way 
in which you act," said Joseph Goldstein, a meditation teacher. 
"Once you've glimpsed what's going on, it's very difficult to 
get caught up in quite the same old way. . . . It's like some little 
voice in the background saying, 'What are you doing?'" 

The psychotechnologies help break the "cultural trance" — 
the naive assumption that the trappings and truisms of our 
own culture represent universal truths or some culmination of 
civilization. The robot rebels, Galatea turns from statue to liv- 
ing flesh, Pinocchio pinches his arm and finds it isn't wooden. 

A fifty-five-year-old sociologist described the onset of his 

One Saturday morning in late September 1972 I was walk- 
ing onto a tennis court to play for the n-to-the-nth-power 
time. I suddenly asked myself, "What am I doing this 
for?" ... It was a sudden awareness that the world of con- 
ventional activities and socially accepted interpretations of 
reality was shallow and unrewarding. 

I spent forty-eight years struggling unsuccessfully to 
find happiness and fulfillment in the social identities be- 

104 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

stowed on me and in the pursuit of socially sanctioned 

I feel that I now have attained freedom just as fully and 
really as a runaway slave might have in the pre-Civil War 
period. At one point I became free of fears and guilt as- 
sociated with my religious upbringing. At another there 
was a shift when I came to know myself not by my name, 
status, or role — but as a nameless free being. 

Every society, by offering its automatic judgments, limits the 
vision of its members. From our earliest years we are seduced 
into a system of beliefs that becomes so inextricably braided 
into our experience that we cannot tell culture from nature. 

Anthropologist Edward Hall has said that culture is a 
medium that touches every aspect of our lives: body language, 
personality, how we express ourselves, the way we design our 
communities. We are even captives of our idea of time. Our own 
culture, for example, is ''monochronic/' one thing at a time; 
whereas in many other world cultures time is "polychronic." In 
polychronic time, tasks and events begin and end according to 
their natural time for completion rather than rigid deadlines. 

For M-time people reared in the northern European tradi- 
tion, time is linear and segmented like a road or a ribbon 
extending forward into the future and backward into the 
past. It is also tangible. They speak of it as being saved, 
spent, wasted, lost, made up, accelerated, slowed down, 
crawling, and running out. 

Although monochronic time (M-time) is imposed, learned, and 
arbitrary, we tend to treat it as if it were built into the universe. 
The transformative process makes us more sensitive to the 
rhythms and creative drives of nature and to the oscillations of 
our own nervous systems. 

Another liberation — freedom from "attachment" — is per- 
haps for most Westerners the least understood idea in Eastern 
philosophy. To us "nonattachment" sounds coldblooded, and 
"desirelessness" sounds undesirable. 

We might more accurately think of nonattachment as non- 
dependency. Much of our inner turbulence reflects the fear of 
loss: our dependence on people, circumstances, and things not 
really under our control. On some level we know that death, 
indifference, rejection, repossession, or high tide may leave us 
bereft in the morning. Still, we clutch desperately at things we 

Crossover : People Changing 105 

cannot finally hold. Nonattachment is the most realistic of at- 
titudes. It is freedom from wishful thinking, from always want- 
ing things to be otherwise. 

By making us aware of the futility of this wishful thinking, 
the psychotechnologies help free us from unhealthy depen- 
dencies. We increase our capacity to love without bargaining or 
expectations, to enjoy without emotional mortgages. At the 
same time, enhanced awareness adds luster to simple things 
and everyday events, so that what may seem a turn toward a 
more austere life is often the discovery of subtler, less perish- 
able riches. 

Another discovery: We are not liberated until we liberate 
others. So long as we need to control other people, however 
benign our motives, we are captive to that need. Giving them 
freedom, we free ourselves. And they are free to grow in their 
own way. 

Andre Kostelanetz recalled how Leopold Stokowski rad- 
icalized orchestral form by freeing the musicians: 

He dispensed with the uniform bowing of the strings, 
knowing that the strength of each player's wrist varies, 
and, to achieve the richest string tone, each player should 
have maximum elasticity. Leopold also encouraged the 
wind players to breathe as they wished. He didn't care, he 
said, how they made music as long as it was beautiful. 

The bonds of culture are often invisible, and its walls are 
glass. We may think we are free. We cannot leave the trap until we 
know we are in it. None but ourselves, as Edward Carpenter 
observed long ago, are the "warders and jailers." Over and 
over, mystical literature depicts the human plight as needless 
imprisonment; it is as if the key were always within reach 
through the bars, but we never think to look for it. 

Another discovery: uncertainty. Not just the uncertainty of 
the moment, which may pass, but oceanic urtcertainty, mystery 
that washes across our beaches forever. Aldous Huxley said it 
in The Doors of Perception: 

The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall 
will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He 
will be wiser but less cocksure, happier but less self- 
satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet bet- 
ter equipped to understand the relationship of words to 

106 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable Mys- 
tery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend. 

Or, as Kazantzakis expressed it, the real meaning of enlight- 
enment is "to gaze with undimmed eyes on all darknesses." 

The psychotechnologies do not "cause" uncertainty, any 
more than they manufacture freedom. They only open our eyes 
to both. The only loss is illusion. We only gain what was 
ours — unclaimed — all along. James Thurber knew: "There is no 
safety in numbers or anything else." Indeed, we never had 
security, only a caricature of it. 

Many people have lived comfortably with a sense of mystery 
all their lives. Others, who have sought certainty as a hunter 
seeks his quarry, may be shaken to find that reason itself is a 
boomerang. Not only does everyday life produce unaccount- 
able events, not only do people behave in ways we might term 
unreasonable, but even the outposts of rational thought — 
formal logic, formal philosophy, theoretical mathematics, 
physics — are mined with paradox. A great many of the Aquar- 
ian Conspirators said they discovered from their scientific train- 
ing the limits of rational thought. Typical responses to the 
question, What major ideas did you have to give up?: 

"Scientific proof as the only way to understand." 

"That rationalism was it." 

"Belief in the purely rational." 

"That logic was all there really was." 

"A linear view." 

"The mechanistic worldview of science in which I had been 

"Material reality." 


"I realized that science had limited its way of knowing na- 

"After many years of intellectual, left-brain pursuit of reality, 
an LSD experience taught me that there were alternate 

In effect, they gave up certainty. 

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig 
described the risk of pressing reason to its furthest reaches, 
where it turns back on itself. "In the high country of the mind," 
he observed, "one has to become adjusted to the thinner air of 

Crossover: People Changing 107 

uncertainty, and to the enormous magnitude of the questions 
asked " 

The more significant the question, the less likely there will be 
an unequivocal answer. 

Acknowledging our uncertainty encourages us to experi- 
ment, and we are transformed by our experiments. We are free 
not to know the answer, we are free to change our position, we 
are free not to have a position. And we learn to reframe our 
problems. Asking the same question again and again without 
success is like continuing to search for a lost object in the places 
we have already looked. The answer, like the lost object, lies 
somewhere else altogether. Once we discover the power of 
challenging the assumptions in our old questions, we can foster 
our own paradigm shifts. 

Here, as in many other instances, the discoveries are linked. 
An appreciation of process makes uncertainty bearable. A 
sense of freedom requires uncertainty, because we must be free 
to change, modify, assimilate new information as we go along. 
Uncertainty is the necessary companion of all explorers. 

Paradoxically, if we give up the need for certainty in terms of 
control and fixed answers, we are compensated by a different 
kind of certainty — a direction, not a fact. We begin to trust 
intuition, whole-brain knowing, what scientist-philosopher 
Michael Polanyi called "tacit knowing." As we become attuned 
to the inner signals, they seem stronger. 

One who becomes involved in the psychotechnologies re- 
alizes that those inner urgings and "hunches" do not contra- 
dict reason but represent transcendent reasoning, the brain's 
capacity for simultaneous analysis we cannot consciously track 
and comprehend. In Mr. Sammler's Planet, Saul Bellow wrote 
about the way we usually frustrate that knowing: 

Intellectual man had become an explaining creature. 
Fathers to children, wives to husbands, lecturers to listen- 
ers .. . the history, the structure, the reasons why. For the 
most part, in one ear and out the other. The soul wanted 
what it wanted. It had its own natural knowledge. It sat 
unhappily , on the superstructures of explanation, poor 
bird, not knowing which way to fly. 

The psychotechnologies lead one to trust the "poor bird" more, 
to let it fly. Intuition, that "natural knowledge," becomes a 
trusted partner in everyday life, available to guide even minor 

108 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

decisions, generating an ever more pervasive sense of flow and 

Closely tied to intuition is vocation — literally, a "calling." As 
Antoine de Saint-Exupery said of freedom, "There is no liberty 
except the liberty of someone making his way towards some- 

Vocation is the process of making one's way toward some- 
thing. It is a direction more than a goal. Following a peak expe- 
rience, one of the conspirators, a housewife who later became a 
filmmaker, said, "I felt as if I'd been called to serve on some- 
body's plan for mankind." The conspirators typically say they 
feel as if they are cooperating with events rather than control- 
ling them or suffering them, much as an aikido master aug- 
ments his strength by aligning himself with existing forces, 
even those in opposition. 

The individual discovers a new kind of flexible will that helps 
in the vocation. This will has sometimes been called "inten- 
tion." It is the opposite of accident, it represents a certain delib- 
erateness, but it doesn't have the iron quality we usually as- 
sociate with the will. 

To Buckminster Fuller, the commitment is "kind of mystical. 
The minute you begin to do what you want to do, it's really a 
different kind of life." Remarking on the same phenomenon, 
W. H. Murray said that commitment seems to enlist Provi- 
dence. "All sorts of things occur to help one that would never 
otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from 
the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen 
incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man 
could have dreamt would have come his way." 

Vocation is a curious blend of the voluntary and the in- 
voluntary — choice and surrender. People remark that they feel 
strongly drawn in a particular direction or to certain tasks, and 
simultaneously convinced that they were somehow "sup- 
posed" to take just those steps. A poet and artist, M. C. 
Richards, said, "Life lies always at some frontier, making sor- 
ties into the unknown. Its path leads always further into truth. 
We cannot call it trackless waste, because as the path appears it 
seems to have lain there awaiting the steps . . . thus the sur- 
prises, thus the continuity." 

Former astronaut Edgar Mitchell became deeply interested in 
promoting the study of states of consciousness after his moon 
flight, and he launched an organization to raise funds for this 
purpose. At one point he remarked to a friend, "I feel almost as 
if I'm operating under orders. . . . Just when I think all is lost, I 

Crossover: People Changing 109 

put my foot down over an abyss — and something comes up to 
hit it, just in time.” 

For some there is a conscious moment of choice. For others 
the commitment is recognized only in retrospect. Dag Ham- 
marskjold described the shift of his own life from the ordinary 
to the meaningful: 

I don't know who — or what — put the question, I don't 
know when it was put. I don't even remember answering. 
But at some moment I did answer to someone or some- 
thing. And from that hour I was certain that existence is 
meaningful and that, therefore, my life in self-surrender 
had a goal. 

Jonas Salk, discoverer of the first polio vaccine, also commit- 
ted to an evolutionary model of social transformation, once 
said, "I have frequently felt that I have not so much chosen but 
that I have been chosen. And sometimes I wished to hell I 
could have disengaged!” He added that even so, those things 
he felt compelled to do despite his rationalizations proved im- 
mensely rewarding. 

Speaking of his own experience, Jung said, "Vocation acts 
like a law of God from which there is no escape.” The creative 
person is overpowered, captive of and driven by a demon. 
Unless one assents to the power of the inner voice, the person- 
ality cannot evolve. Although we often mistreat those who lis- 
ten to that voice, he said, still "they become our legendary 

By increasing our awareness of the inner signals, the 
psychotechnologies promote a sense of vocation, an inner di- 
rection awaiting discovery and release. Frederich Flach noted 
that when an individual has resolved his problems, when he is 
ready to meet the world with imagination and energy, things 
fall into place — a collaboration between person and events that 
seems to enlist the cooperation of fate: 

Carl Jung called this phenomenon "synchronicity.” He de- 
fined it as "the simultaneous occurrence of two meaning- 
fully but not causally connected events.” ... At the very 
moment when we are struggling to sustain a sense of per- 
sonal autonomy we are also caught up in vital forces that 
are much larger than ourselves so that while we may be the 
protagonists of our own lives, we are the extras or spear 
carriers in some larger drama. . . . 

This phenomenon sounds mystical only because we do 

110 The Aquarian Conspiraa/ 

not understand it. But there are innumerable clues avail- 
able given the right frame of mind — openness — the availa- 
bility to synthesize the clues into a whole. 

A number of conspirators describe a strong sense of mission. 
A typical account: 

One day in spring 1977, while taking a walk after meditat- 
ing, I had an electric feeling which lasted about five sec- 
onds in which I felt totally integrated with the creative 
force of the universe. I “saw” what spiritual transforma- 
tion was trying to do, what my mission in life was, and 
several alternative ways I might accomplish it. I chose one 
and am making it happen. . . . 

The dream of man's heart, Saul Bellow once said, is that life 
may complete itself in significant pattern. Vocation gives us 
such a pattern. 

A sobering discovery — not guilt, not duty, but responsibility 
in the naked sense of its Latin roots — the act of giving back, 
responding. We can choose our mode of participation in the 
world, our response to life. We can be angry, gracious, humor- 
ous, empathetic, paranoid. Once we become aware of our 
habitual responses, we see the ways in which we have per- 
petuated many of our own tribulations. 

By focusing on our thought processes, the psychotech- 
nologies show us how much of our experience is generated by 
automatic responses and assumptions. A Los Angeles attorney 
recalled the blinding insight into responsibility that occurred in 
the 1960s when he was a first-year law student volunteering for 
a university experiment on the effects of LSD: 

Suddenly I caught a glimpse, brief and shadowy at first, of 
my “real" self. I hadn't spoken to my parents in weeks; 
now I realized that, out of stupid pride. I'd needlessly hurt 
them by prolonging a feud that no longer held any emo- 
tional validity. Why hadn't I seen this before? 

Moments later came another revelation, sharp and pain- 
ful. I saw all the rich possibilities I'd recently squandered, 
breaking off with a young woman for what had seemed 
such good reasons at the time. Now I recognized all the 

jealousy I'd felt, my possessiveness, my suspicion My 

God, I was the one who had killed our romance, she 

Crossover: People Changing 111 

Sitting there in the restaurant, I saw myself in a differ- 
ent, more "objective" light. ... I wasn't being tricked or 
manipulated. The troublemaker was me, only me, and al- 
ways had been me. I began to sob without control. The 
weight of years of self-deception seemed to be lifting from 
me. . . . 

The experience certainly didn't "cure" me of my destruc- 
tive personality traits, and yet on that single day I'd gained 
invaluable insights that would allow me, for the first time, 
to sustain a romantic relationship through all its peaks and 
valleys. Surely it was no coincidence that a few weeks later 
I met the woman who became — and remains — my wife. 

Never again would he take LSD, he said, but the experience 
liberated him from slavery to his emotional makeup. "From 
then on I was free to struggle consciously and continually with 
it — a struggle that goes on to this day." 

We often speak contemptuously of "the system," referring to 
an established power structure. Actually, if we realize that we 
are part of a dynamic system, one in which any action affects 
the whole, we are empowered to change it. 

One est graduate said he reacted to this realization with 
mixed feelings: 

Many mornings I wake up with a cold gray stone of fear in 
my solar plexus — fear that I really do matter . . . fear that 
being afraid won't stop me any more. If the discovery has 
frightened me, it has also awakened me. It explains me to 
myself in a way that says I have integrity and dignity. It 
says not only that I can make a difference, but 1 am the 
difference in the world. 

Michael Rossman recalls the collective discovery by the or- 
ganizers of the Free Speech Movement that they did have the 
power to really change things. 

Nothing was any longer what it had seemed. Objects, en- 
counters, events, all became mysterious. . . .There was no 
avoiding that sense, I know it gave many people the 
creeps. We hardly ever mentioned it, and no one under- 
stood it, but we felt like audience and actors in the old 
Greek drama, playing our free parts in an inexorable script 
we already knew by heart. [There are] no words for that 
mind-wrenching simultaneity of free will and destiny. 

... It may indeed be that we verge on breakthrough into 

112 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

another plane of reality each time we act together to make 
the world strange and new, however modestly. Suppose 
the frameworks of individual perception can be broken so 
deeply by willfully and collectively changing social reality? 

Each of us is — potentially — the difference in the world. 

A belated discovery, one that causes considerable anguish, is 
that no one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a 
gate of change that can only be unlocked from the inside. We 
cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or by 
emotional appeal. 

To the individual whose gate of change is well defended, the 
transformative process, even in others, is threatening. The new 
beliefs and perceptions of others challenge the "right'' reality of 
the unchanging person; something in himself may have to die. 
This prospect is frightening, for our identities are constituted 
more truly by our beliefs than by our bodies. The ego, that 
collection of qualms and convictions, dreads its own demise. 
Indeed, each transformation is a kind of suicide, the killing of 
aspects of the ego to save a more fundamental self. 

At some point early in our lives, we decide just how con- 
scious we wish to be. We establish a threshold of awareness. 
We choose how stark a truth we are willing to admit into con- 
sciousness, how readily we will examine contradictions in our 
lives and beliefs, how deeply we wish to penetrate. Our brains 
can censor what we see and hear, we can filter reality to suit 
our level of courage. At every crossroads we make the choice 
again for greater or lesser awareness. 

Those who cannot communicate their own liberating dis- 
coveries may feel polarized at times from those closest to them. 
Eventually and reluctantly they accept the inviolate nature of 
individual choice. If, for whatever reasons, another person has 
chosen a life strategy of denial, which has its own heavy costs, 
we cannot reverse that decision; nor can we alleviate for 
another the chronic uneasiness that comes from a life of cen- 
sored reality. 

But there is a compensating discovery. Little by little, those 
who undertake the transformative process discern the exis- 
tence of a vast support network. 

"It's a lonely path," one of the conspirators said, "but you 
aren't alone on it." The network is more than a mere associa- 
tion of like-minded persons. It offers moral support, feedback. 

Crossover : People Changing 113 

an opportunity for mutual discovery and reinforcement, ease, 
intimacy, celebration, a chance to share experiences and pieces 
of the puzzle. 

Erich Fromm's blueprint for social transformation empha- 
sized the need for mutual support, especially in small groups of 
friends: "Human solidarity is the necessary condition for the 
unfolding of any one individual." "No transformation, no 
Supermind, without such friends," said the narrator of Michael 
Murphy's novel, Jacob Atabet, based in part on the experiments 
and explorations of Murphy and his friends. "We are midwives 
to each other." 

The immense fulfillment of the friendships between those 
engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a 
quality impossible to describe, Teilhard once said. Barbara 
Marx Hubbard called the intense affinity "supra-sex" — an 
almost sensual longing for communion with others who have 
the larger vision. Psychologist Jean Houston wryly called it 
"swarming," and one conspirator spoke of "the network as 

There is a conspiracy to make it less risky for people to expe- 
rience transformation, said a 1978 letter from John Denver, 
Werner Erhard, and Robert Fuller, past president of Oberlin 

Acknowledging to ourselves and to you that we are all 
members of this "conspiracy" to make the world a safer 
place for personal and social transformation brings us clar- 
ity of purpose and a sense of relatedness as we go about 
our business. 

In fact, the original meaning of conspiracy is to "breathe 
together," which expresses exactly what we have in mind. 
We are together. 

In the novel Shockwave Rider, twenty-first-century society is a 
computer- monitored nightmare. The only sanctuary of pri- 
vacy, individuality, and human nurturance is Precipice, a vil- 
lage that evolved from a shantytown of survivors of the Great 
Bay Quake. Its citizens protect it as an oasis and a prototype for 
deliverance from dehumanization. Around the country, an un- 
derground of sympathizers know of it. 

Freeman, a fugitive from the authoritarian system, is helped 
by the underground. He later remarks, "Precipice is an awfully 
big place when you learn to recognize it." 

So is the conspiracy. As its numbers increase, supportive 

114 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

friendships become easier, even in stifling institutions and 
small towns. 

The sense of community, the affirmation of mutual dis- 
coveries, gird the individual for an otherwise lonely enterprise. 
The network, as Roszak said, is a vehicle of self-discovery. "We 
turn to the company of those who share our most intimate 
and forbidden identity, and there we begin to find ourselves 
as persons." 

Brief meetings are enough for recognition. Those who re- 
sponded to the survey gave assorted accounts of how they 
found their allies: 

• Through the grapevine, friends of friends: "When you're 
in such-and-such, look up so-and-so." 

• Through synchronicity or "guidance": "They seemed to 
show up when I needed them." 

• By making their interests known. Many are active in lectur- 
ing, writing, organizing, or running centers, but even 
those who are low-profile are usually not secretive. 

• Most easily, at conferences, seminars, and other sites 
where those of similar interests are likely to congregate. 

• "Everywhere!" In elevators and supermarkets, on air- 
planes, at parties, in offices. Some conspirators said 
they sometimes relate an anecdote among co-workers or 
strangers and watch for a reaction, for understanding. Like 
the primitive Christians, the Federalists, like a resistance 
movement, individuals band together, following the Bud- 
dhist dictum, "Seek out the brotherhood." 

Tn her book. On Waking Up, Marian Coe Brezic described her 
new best friends as "a bunch of Practicing Grassroots Mystics": 

They have mortgages to meet and bosses to please 
and likely a mate who wonders what they're into . . . 

Meanwhile and nevertheless 

they're delving into the ancient wisdoms 

rediscovered now and shared . . . 

The kind of ideas you don't or can't explain 

at the breakfast table 

yet somehow putting a light on life. 

Meet them at the produce bins 
and these metaphysical friends 
look like next-door neighbors who'll talk 

Crossover: People Changing 115 

about the price of one pear and what's happening to coffee 

unless you share their search. . . . 

There is a strong sense of family — a family whose bond, as 
novelist Richard Bach expressed it, is not blood but respect and 
joy in each other's lives: “Rarely do members of one family 
grow up under the same roof." Community lends joy and 
sustenance to the adventure. 

As the Parallel Cultures group says in its handbook, “We 
need support as our values change, and for that we have each 

The most subtle discovery is the transformation of fear. 

Fear has been our prison: fear of self, fear of loss, fear of fear. 
“What bars our way?" asked writer Gabriel Saul Heilig. “We 
still tremble before the Self like children before the falling dark. 
Yet once we have dared to make our passage inside the heart, 
we will find that we have entered into a world in which depth 
leads on to light, and there is no end to entrance." 

The fear of failure is transformed by the realization that we 
are engaged in continuous experiments and lessons. The fear of 
isolation is transformed by discovery of the support network. 
The fear of not being efficient gradually falls away as we see 
past the culture's M-time and our priorities change. 

The fear of being fooled or even looking foolish is trans- 
formed by the sudden recognition that not changing, not 
exploring, is a far more real and frightening possibility. 4 

Pain and paradox no longer intimidate us as we begin to reap 
the rewards of their resolution and see them as recurrent 
symptoms of the need for the transformation of disharmonies. 
Each survival and transcendence gives courage for the next 
encounter. The survivor knows the truth of Viktor Frankl's 
statement, “What is to give light must endure burning." 

Fear of giving up any part of our current life inventory van- 
ishes as we realize that all change is by choice. We only drop 
what we no longer want. Fear of self- inquiry is overcome be- 
cause the self turns nut to be not the dark, impulsive secret we 
had been warned about but a strong, sane center. 

4 There is no counterconspiracy except fear and inertia. Forty -four percent of 
the Aquarian Conspirators polled considered the greatest threat to widespread 
social transformation to be "popular fear of change." Other suggested factors 
were "conservative backlash’' (20 percent), "excessive claims by advocates of 
change" (18 percent), and "divisiveness among advocates of change" (18 

116 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

Sometimes a tiny child has mastered balance but is afraid to 
walk, and adults will try to tempt him by holding out a desir- 
able toy. In a sense, transformative technologies are devices to 
get us to try our inner equilibrium. Eventually, trust in these 
systems becomes self-trust — or, more specifically, confidence 
in the process of change itself. We learn that fear, like pain, is 
just a symptom. Fear is a question: What are you afraid of, and 
why? Just as the seed of health is in illness, because illness 
contains information, our fears are a treasurehouse of self- 
knowledge if we explore them. Sometimes we call our fears by 
other names. We say we're sick and tired, angry, realistic; we 
say we "know our limits." Finding out what we are afraid 
of can break the code of many self-destructive behaviors and 

Once we experience the transformation of a fear we have 
trouble recapturing it, as if we have stepped far enough back 
from the fire to see that the burning buildings are only a part of 
a stage set or that the wizard is creating smoke from behind the 
curtain. Fear, it becomes evident, is a "special effect" of our 
consciousness. We will encounter fears and worries for the 
rest of our lives, but we now have a tool that makes all the 


In the transformative process we become the artists and scien- 
tists of our own lives. Enhanced awareness promotes in all of 
us the traits that abound in the creative person: Whole-seeing. 
Fresh, childlike perceptions. Playfulness, a sense of flow. 
Risk-taking. The ability to focus attention in a relaxed way, to 
become lost in the object of contemplation. The ability to deal 
with many complex ideas at the same time. Willingness to di- 
verge from the prevailing view. Access to preconscious 
material. Seeing what is there rather than what is expected or 

The transformed self has new tools, gifts, sensibilities. Like 
an artist, it spies pattern; it finds meaning and its own, ines- 
capable originality. "Every life," said Hesse, "stands beneath 
its own star." 

Like a good scientist, the transformed self experiments, 
speculates, invents, and relishes the unexpected. 

Having done field work in the psychotechnologies, the self is 
a folk psychologist. 

Awake now to the imprint of culture on itself, it attempts to 

Crossover: People Changing 117 

understand diversity with the curiosity and interest of an an- 
thropologist. The practices of other cultures suggest endless 
human possibilities. 

The transformed self is a sociologist, too — a student of the 
bonds of community and conspiracy. Like the physicist, it ac- 
cepts ultimate uncertainty as a fact of life, it senses a realm 
beyond linear time and blocked-out space. Like a molecular 
biologist, it is awed by nature's capacity for renewal, change, 
and ever-higher order. 

The transformed self is an architect, designing its own envi- 
ronment. It is a visionary, imagining alternative futures. 

Like a poet, it reaches for original metaphorical truths deep 
in language. It is a sculptor, liberating its own form from the 
rock of custom. With heightened attention and flexibility, it 
becomes a playwright and is its own repertory company: 
clown, monk, athlete, heroine, sage, child. 

It is a diarist, an autobiographer. Sifting through the shards 
of its past, it is an archaeologist. It is composer, instrument . . . 
and music. 

Many artists have said that when life itself becomes fully 
conscious, art as we know it will vanish. Art is only a stopgap, 
an imperfect effort to wrest meaning from an environment 
where nearly everyone is sleepwalking. 

The artist's material is always close at hand. "We live at the 
edge of the miraculous," Henry Miller said, and T. S. Eliot 
wrote that the end of all our exploring will be to arrive at our 
starting point and know it for the first time. To Proust, discov- 
ery consisted not in seeking new landscapes but in having new 
eyes. Whitman asked, "Will you seek afar off? You will come 
back at last to things best known to you, finding happiness, 
knowledge, not in another place but in this place . . . not in 
another hour, but this hour." 

For too long we have played games we did not care about by 
rules we did not believe in. If there was art in our lives it was 
paint-by-number. Life lived as art finds its own way, makes its 
own friends and its own music, sees with its own eyes. "I go by 
touching where I have to go," wrote poet Eric Barker, "obe- 
dient to my own illumined hand." 

To the transformed self, as to the artist, success is never a 
place to stay, only a momentary reward. Joy is in risking, in 
making new. Eugene O'Neill scorned "mere" success: 

Those who succeed and do not push on to greater failure 

are the spiritual middle classers. Their stopping at success 

is the proof of their compromising insignificance. How 

118 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

pretty their dreams must have been! . . . Only through the 
unattainable does man achieve a hope worth living and 
dying for — and so attain himself. 

A designer-engineer advised, "Do things in the spirit of design 
research. Be willing to accept a mistake and redesign. There is 
no failure." 

If we take the artist-scientist's view toward life, there is no 
failure. An experiment has results: We learn from it. Since it 
adds to our understanding and expertise, however it comes out 
we have not lost. Finding out is an experiment. 

As folk scientists we become sensitive to nature, relation- 
ships, hypotheses. For example, we can experimentally learn to 
tell our reckless impulses from genuine intuitions, getting 
a kind of long-range biofeedback for that inner sense of 

The survey of Aquarian Conspirators asked for a choice of 
the four most important instruments for social change from a 
checklist of fifteen. More often than any other answer, "Per- 
sonal Example" was checked. 

More than a decade ago Erich Fromm was warning that no 
great radical idea can survive unless it is embodied in individu- 
als whose lives are the message. 

The transformed self is the medium. The transformed life is 
the message. 


The American 
Matrix for 

We have it in our power to begin the world, again. 

— THOMAS PAINE, Common Sense (1776) 
Tho' obscured, 'tis the form of the angelic land. 

— WILLIAM BLAKE, America (1 817) 

Linked by television, millions of Americans had a col- 
Jk lective peak experience on July 4, 1976, as they 
watched an armada of serene and beautiful sailing 
ships glide through New York harbor. Many were 
stirred by an unaccountable sense of hope and harmony, in- 
fused for a few hours with the nation's early vision and prom- 
ise, remnants of the dream of unity, opportunity, and what 
Jefferson once called "the holy cause of freedom." 

During that summer the European press noted the impor- 
tance of the "American experiment," as the London Sunday 
Telegraph called it. Had it not been successful, "the idea of 
individual freedom would never have survived the Twentieth 

Century." Neu Zurcher Zeitung in Zurich said, "The American 
Bicentennial celebrates the greatest success story in modern 
history. The 1776 beacon, rekindled and invigorated in various 
ways — not least by puritan self-criticism — has endured." 
Stockholm's Dagens Nyheter observed that Americans are not 
bound together by social and cultural ties, family, or even lan- 
guage, so much as by the American dream itself. 


120 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

But then we must ask, whose American dream? The dream is 
a chameleon; it has changed again and again. For the first im- 
migrants, America was a continent to explore and exploit, a 
haven for the unwanted and the dissenters — a new beginning. 
Gradually the dream became an ascetic and idealized image of 
democracy, bespeaking the age-old hope for justice and self- 
governance. All too quickly, that dream metamorphosed into 
an expansionist, materialist, nationalist, and even imperialist 
vision of wealth and domination — paternalism, Manifest Des- 
tiny. Yet even then, there was a competing Transcendentalist 
vision: excellence, spiritual riches, the unfolding of the latent 
gifts of the individual. 

There have been populist dreams in which a benevolent 
American government achieves lasting parity among people by 
redistributing wealth and opportunity. There are dreams of 
rugged individualism — and ideals of brotherhood, from sea to 
shining sea. 

Like that of the founding fathers and of the American Tran- 
scendentalists of the mid- 1800s, the dream of the Aquarian 
Conspiracy in America is a framework for nonmaterialist ex- 
pansion: autonomy, awakening, creativity — and reconciliation. 

As we shall see, there have always been two "bodies" of the 
American dream. One, the dream of tangibles, focuses on ma- 
terial well-being and practical, everyday freedoms. The other, 
like an etheric body extending from the material dream, seeks 
psychological liberation — a goal at once more essential and 
more elusive. The proponents of the latter dream have nearly 
always come from the comfortable social classes. Having 
achieved the first measure of freedom, they hunger for the 


We have forgotten how radical that original dream was — how 
bold the founders of the democracy really were. They knew 
that they were framing a form of government that challenged 
all the aristocratic assumptions and top-heavy power structures 
of Western history. 

The Revolutionaries exploited every available means of 
communication. They linked their networks by energetic letter 
writing. Jefferson designed an instrument with five yoked pens 
for writing multiple copies of his letters. The new ideas were 
spread through pamphlets, weekly newspapers, broadsides. 

The American Matrix 121 

almanacs, and sermons. As historian James MacGregor Bums 
noted, they also formulated their protests as official appeals to 
the king "shipped across the Atlantic after suitable hometown 

Hardly anyone expected the American uprising to succeed. 
Thousands of colonists emigrated to Canada or hid in the 
woods, certain that the king's armies would tear the colonial 
regiments to shreds. Nor did a majority of the people support 
the struggle for independence /even in theory. Historians esti- 
mate that one-third favored independence, one-third favored 
retaining British ties, and one-third were indifferent. 

"The American War is over," Benjamin Rush wrote in 1787, 
"but this is far from the case of the American Revolution. On 
the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is 
over." Not only was the Revolution ongoing, as Rush said; it 
had preceded the military confrontation. "The war was no part 
of the revolution," John Adams reflected in 1815, "but only an 
effect and consequence of it." The revolution was in the minds of 
the people. This radical change in the principles, opinions, sen- 
timents, and affections of the people was the real American 
Revolution. Long before the first shot is fired, the revolution 
begins. Long after truce is declared, it continues to overturn 

Although it is rarely noted in histories of the American Revo- 
lution, many of the arch-Revolutionaries came from a tradition 
of mystical fraternity. Except for such traces as the symbols on 
the reverse side of the Great Seal and the dollar bill, little evi- 
dence remains of this esoteric influence (Rosicrucian, Masonic, 
and Hermetic). 1 That sense of fraternity and spiritual enfran- 

’The Adams family, which produced two American presidents, belonged to a 
Druidic sect that had been persecuted in England. In the American revolu- 
tionary period. Freemasonry was nearer its medieval beginnings and was more 
a mystical brotherhood than essentially the social lodge it became after wide- 
spread persecution of Masons in the nineteenth century. 

Among the colonial Masons were George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, 
and Paul Revere. Fifty of the fifty-six signers of the Dedaration of Indepen- 
dence are supposed to have been Masons. Historian Charles Ferguson de- 
scribed Washington's army as a "Masonic convention," noting that the revolu- 
tionaries relied on the brotherhood for most of their communications. Franklin 
obtained French aid by way of his Masonic connections in France, and 
Washington himself initiated Lafayette into the order. 

Because the brotherhood was supposed to transcend national or political 
loyalties, revolutionary soldiers are said to have carefully returned the lost 
papers of a British field lodge; and the apparent laxness of some British 
generals was attributed to their hope for a quick and bloodless settlement so 
that Mason would not be set against Mason. 

122 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

chisement played an important role in the intensity of the 
Revolutionaries and their commitment to the realization of a 

"A New Order of the Ages Begins," says the reverse side of 
the Great Seal, and the Revolutionaries meant it. The American 
experiment was consciously conceived as a momentous step in 
the evolution of the species. "The cause of America is in great 
measure the cause of all mankind," Thomas Paine said in his 
inflammatory pamphlet Common Sense. 



In the early and middle nineteenth century, the American 
Transcendentalists restated and reinvigorated that second 
dream. As we will see in Chapter 7, they rejected traditional 
authority in favor of inner authority. Their term for autonomy 
was "self-reliance." Transcendentalism seemed to them a logi- 
cal extension of the American Revolution — spiritual liberation 
as a counterpart to the freedoms guaranteed by the United 
States Constitution. 

The autonomy of the individual was more important to them 
than allegiance to any government. If conscience did not 
concur with the law, Thoreau said, civil disobedience was 
called for. 

The Transcendentalists supposedly threatened the older 
order with their "new ideas"; but the ideas were not new, only 
the prospect of applying them in a society. The eclectic Tran- 
scendentalists had drawn not only from Quaker and Puritan 
traditions but also from German and Greek philosophers and 
Eastern religions. Although they were charged with having 
contempt for history, they replied that humankind could be 
liberated from history. 

They challenged the assumptions of the day in every realm: 
religion, philosophy, science, economy, the arts, education, 
and politics. They anticipated many of the movements of the 
twentieth century. Like the human-potential movement of the 
1960s, the Transcendentalists maintained that most people had 
not begun to tap their own inherent powers, had not discov- 
ered their uniqueness or their mother lode of creativity. "But 
do your thing," Emerson said, "and I shall know you." 

Among themselves they tolerated dissent and diversity, for 
they were sure that unanimity was neither possible nor desir- 

The American Matrix 123 

able. They knew that each of us sees the world through our 
own eyes, our own perspective. Long before Einstein, they 
believed all observations to be relative. They sought compan- 
ions, not disciples. Emerson's charge: Be an opener of doors to 
those who come after. 

They believed that mind and matter are continuous. In con- 
trast to the mechanistic Newtonian ideas prevalent in their day, 
they saw the universe as organic, open, evolutionary. Form 
and meaning can be discovered in the universal flux, they be- 
lieved, if one appealed to intuition — "Transcendental Reason." 
More than a century before neuroscience confirmed that the 
brain has a holistic mode of processing, the Transcendentalists 
described flashes, intuitions, and a kind of simultaneous know- 
ing. Generations before Freud, they acknowledged the exis- 
tence of the unconscious. "We lie in the lap of immense intelli- 
gence," Emerson said. 

But they did not reject intellectual knowledge; they believed 
reason and intuition to be complementary, mutually enriching. 
Functioning with both faculties one could be awake and live in 
"the enveloping now." (Emerson once said, "Every day is 

Inner reform must precede social reform, the Transcenden- 
talists maintained; yet they found themselves campaigning on 
behalf of suffrage and pacifism and opposing slavery. And they 
were social innovators, establishing a cooperative community 
and an artists' collective. 

To support themselves and bring their ideas to a larger pub- 
lic, they helped launch the Lyceum movement, traveling 
around the country in an early version of the lecture circuit, 
trying out their ideas in a variety of settings. Their journal, The 
Dial, edited by Margaret Fuller and later by Emerson (aided by 
Thoreau), had an impact far beyond its small circulation of one 
thousand, just as the Transcendentalists themselves had influ- 
ence out of all proportion to their number. 

Before the Civil War intervened. Transcendentalism had al- 
most reached the proportions of a national grass-roots move- 
ment. Apparently many Americans of the day were attracted to 
a philosophy that stressed an inner search for meaning. Al- 
though the Transcendentalist movement was overwhelmed by 
the materialism of the late-nineteenth century, in various 
guises it entered the mainstream of world philosophy, to in- 
spire literary giants like Whitman and Melville and to invigo- 
rate generations of social reformers. 

124 The Aquarian Conspiracy 


Historian Daniel Boorstin said of America, “We began as a 
Land of the Otherwise. Nothing is more distinctive, nor has 
made us more un-European than our disbelief in the ancient, 
well documented impossibilities." 

There is a kind of dynamic innocence in the American notion 
that anyone who really wants to can beat the odds or the ele- 
ments. Americans have little sense of keeping in their place. 
The myth of transcendence is perpetuated by a pantheon of 
wilderness explorers and moon explorers, record breakers in 
every field of endeavor, heroic figures like Helen Keller and 
“Lucky" Lindbergh. 

Because the dream of renewal is built in, the American 
character is fertile ground for the notion of transformation. 
When a Stanford psychologist, Alex Inkeles, compared Ameri- 
can character traits to those of Europeans, as evidenced in a 
1971 poll, and then compared the most pronounced American 
traits to those observed in the culture two hundred years ago, 
he found a surprising continuity in ten traits. 2 

Americans take unusual pride in their freedoms and in their 
constitution, a pride that both impressed and irritated Tocque- 
ville on his visit to the new republic. 

Americans express greater self-reliance than Europeans. 
They are likelier to blame themselves for whatever has gone 
wrong, Inkeles said. They believe strongly in voluntarism, and 
they are “joiners." They are trusting, they think they can 
change the world, they believe that striving brings success, 
they are innovative and open. 

The survey showed Americans to be more anti-authoritarian 
than Europeans and to have a stronger sense of the “quality" of 
the self, the importance of the individual. 

These traits are clearly compatible with the process and dis- 
coveries of personal transformation discussed in Chapters 3 
and 4: freedom, the self as powerful and responsible, connec- 
tion to others, support network, autonomy, openness. Personal 
transformation, in effect, is an enactment of the original American 

2 Over the same period there have been three major changes in the American 
character: an increasing tolerance of diversity, an erosion of the ethic of hard 
work and frugality, and a concern about the loss of control over the political 

The American Matrix 125 


The Second American Revolution — the revolution to achieve 
freedom in a larger dimension — awaited critical numbers of 
agents of change and a means of easy communication among 
them. In 1969, in Without Marx or Jesus, Jean-Frangois Revel 
described the United States as the most eligible prototype na- 
tion for world revolution. "Today in America — the child of 
European imperialism — a nejv revolution is rising. It is the rev- 
olution of our time . . . and offers the only possible escape for 
mankind today." 

Real revolutionary activity, he noted, consists of transforming 
reality, that is, in making reality conform more closely to one's 
ideal. When we speak of "revolution" we must necessarily 
speak of something that cannot be conceived or understood 
within the context of old ideas. The stuff of revolution, and its 
first success, must be the ability to innovate. In that sense, 
there is more revolutionary spirit in the United States today, 
even on the Right, than elsewhere on the Left. 

The relative freedom in the United States would make it 
possible for such a revolution to occur bloodlessly, Revel said. 
If that happened, and if one political civilization were ex- 
changed for another, as seemed to be happening, the impact 
might be felt worldwide by osmosis. This radical transforma- 
tion would need the simultaneous occurrence of smaller 
revolutions — in politics, society, international and interracial 
relations, cultural values, and technology and science. "The 
United States is the only country where these revolutions are 
simultaneously in progress and organically linked in such a 
way as to constitute a single revolution." 

There also must be an internal critique of injustices, of the 
management of material and human resources, and of abuses 
of political power. Above all, there must be criticism of the 
culture itself: its morality, religion, customs, and arts. And 
there must be demand for respect of the individual's unique- 
ness, with the society regarded as the medium for individual 
development and for brotherhood. 

Like Transcendentalism, Revel's revolution would encom- 
pass "the liberation of the creative personality and the awaken- 
ing of personal initiative" as opposed to the closed horizons of 
more repressive societies. The perturbation would come from 
the privileged classes, he said, because that is the way of revo- 
lutions. They are launched by those disenchanted with the cul- 
ture's ultimate reward system. If a new prototype of society is 

126 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

to emerge, rather than a coup d'etat, dialogue and debate must 
occur at the highest levels. 

Certainly the sixties saw great social turbulence; members of 
the middle and upper classes, especially, began to criticize 
existing institutions and speculate on a new society. Strong 
social and historical forces were converging to create the dis- 
equilibrium that precedes revolution. Americans were increas- 
ingly aware of the impotence of existing institutions — 
government, schools, medicine, church, business — to deal col- 
lectively with mounting problems. 

The disenchantment with mores and institutions was most 
visible in the counterculture, but it spread quickly. The socie- 
ty's discontent and ripeness for new direction was evident in 
the rapid assimilation of counterculture concerns, values, be- 
havior, fashion, and music. 

Wave after wave of social protest reflected growing skepti- 
cism about authority, 3 more sensitivity to contradictions in the 
society — the juxtaposition of poverty and affluence, scarcity 
and consumerism. There were marches, lie-ins, sit-ins, be-ins, 
press conferences, riots. The civil rights movement, the antiwar 
movement, the Free Speech Movement, the ecology move- 
ment. Women's rights and gay rights. The Gray Panthers, 
antinuclear prayer vigils, taxpayers' revolts, demonstrations for 
and against abortion. All the groups cribbed strategies from 
their predecessors, including tactics for making the six o'clock 

Meanwhile the rising interest in psychedelics dovetailed with 
media coverage of new discoveries about altered consciousness 
via meditation research and biofeedback training. The body- 
mind discoveries — the extraordinary connection between state 
of mind and state of health — buttressed the interest in human 
potential. Imported phenomena like acupuncture further chal- 
lenged Western models of how things work. 

One observer described the tumultuous events of the 1960s 
as the Great Refusal, when millions seemed to be saying no to 

3 The growing use of marijuana dealt a blow to authority: medical, legal, and 
parental. Hundreds of thousands of rural and small-town youths who might 
never have encountered marijuana in peacetime were introduced to the drug 
in Vietnam. Ironically, the introduction of major psychedelics, like LSD, in the 
1960s was largely attributable to the Central Intelligence Agency's investiga- 
tion into the substances for possible military use. Experiments on more than 
eighty college campuses, under various CIA code names, unintentionally 
popularized LSD. Thousands of graduate students served as guinea pigs. 
Soon they were synthesizing their own "add." By 1973, according to the 
National Commission on Drug and Marijuana Abuse, nearly 5 percent of all 
American adults had tried LSD or a similar major psychedelic at least once. 

The American Matrix 127 

conventions and concessions that had been taken for granted 
for generations. It was as if they were acting out Edward Car- 
penter's prophecy that the time would surely come when great 
numbers would rise up against mindless conformity, bureau- 
cracies, warmaking, dehumanizing work, needless sickness. In 
discovering those regions of mind in which they transcend “the 
little, local self," human beings would create an agenda for the 
renewal of society. 

To historian William McLqughlin, the sixties marked the be- 
ginning of America's fourth “great awakening," a cultural dis- 
location and revitalization that will extend into the 1990s. 4 
These periodic awakenings, which take place over a generation 
or more, "are not periods of social neurosis but of revitaliza- 
tion. They are therapeutic and cathartic, not pathological." 
They result from a crisis in meaning: The ways of the culture no 
longer match the beliefs and behavior of the people. Although 
an awakening begins first with disturbance among individuals, 
it results in the shift of the whole worldview of a culture. 
"Awakenings begin in periods of cultural distortion and grave 
personal stress, when we lose faith in the legitimacy of our 
norms, the viability of our institutions, and the authority of our 

American history, according to McLoughlin, is best under- 
stood as a millenarian movement, driven by a changing spiri- 
tual vision. Although it keeps redefining itself to meet con- 
tingencies and new experiences, there is one constant: "the 
fundamental belief that freedom and responsibility will perfect 
not only the individual but the world." This sense of a sacred 
collective purpose, which sometimes led to aggression in the 
past, has metamorphosed in this fourth awakening to a sense 
of the mystical unity of humankind and the vital power of 
harmony between human beings and nature. 

McLoughlin calls attention to the model of social change 
formulated by anthropologist Anthony C.W. Wallace in a 1956 
essay. Periodically, according to Wallace, the people in a given 
culture find that they can no longer travel its "mazeways," the 
orienting patterns and paths that have guided their predeces- 
sors. The "old lights" or customary beliefs do not fit current 

4 The Puritan Awakening (1610-1640) preceded the establishment of a constitu- 
tional monarchy in England. The first great awakening in America (1730-1760) 
led to the creation of the American republic; the second (1800-1830), to the 
solidification of the Union and the rise of Jacksonian participatory democracy; 
the third (1890-1920), to rejection of unregulated capitalistic exploitation and 
the beginning of the welfare state. Our fourth appears headed toward a 
rejection of unregulated exploitation of humankind and of nature and toward 
conservation ana optimal use of the world's resources. 

128 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

experience. Nothing is working because the solutions lie out- 
side the accepted patterns of thought. 

A few individuals, then great numbers, lose their bearings 
and begin to generate political unrest. As controversy grows, 
the traditionalists or "nativists," those who have most at stake 
in the old culture or who are most rigid in their beliefs, try to 
summon the people back to the "old lights." Mistaking 
symptoms for causes, they sanction or punish the new behav- 
iors. Eventually, however, as McLoughlin described it, "ac- 
cumulated pressures for change produce such acute personal 
and social stress that the whole culture must break the crust of 
custom, crash through the blocks in the mazeways, and find 
new socially structured avenues." 

Then the "new light" is the consensus; it is first expressed in 
the more flexible members of the society who are willing to 
experiment with new mazeways or new lifestyles. Legal in- 
terpretation, family structure, sex roles, and school curricula 
change in response to the new vision, and gradually tradi- 
tionalists drift into it as well. 

Our present cultural transformation alarms conservatives 
and liberals alike with its radical new premises. Whereas con- 
servatives have historically called for a return to civil law and 
order during periods of social turbulence, now "nativists" at 
both ends of the political spectrum are calling for a return to a 
lawful and orderly universe. 

The fashionable label for psychological dissent, tantamount 
to the blanket charge of un-Americanism in the 1950s — is nar- 
cissism. Critics lump those seeking answers through inward 
search with hedonists and cultists, much as McCarthyites cate- 
gorized political dissidents with criminals, drug addicts, and 
sexual deviants. 

Someone is always trying to summon us back to a dead al- 
legiance: Back to God, the simple-minded religion of an earlier 
day. "Back to the basics," simple-minded education. Back to 
simple-minded patriotism. And now we are being called back 
to a simple-minded "rationality" contradicted by personal ex- 
perience and frontier science. 


In an unsettled period the questions and alternatives posed by 
a minority, the challenges to authority and established values, 
can spread rapidly throughout a culture. By amplifying both 
the unrest and the options, a society's communications net- 

The American Matrix 129 

work acts much like a collective nervous system. In this 
sense, the technology that seemed for a time to betray us into 
a dehumanized future is a powerful medium for human 

"At the present moment," Gertrude Stein said in 1945, 
"America is the oldest country in the world because she was 
the first country into the Twentieth Century." The United 
States, with its sophisticated communications technology and 
its history of exploiting news and promoting new images, was 
indeed the logical arena for the opening stages of the revolution 
Revel predicted. 

Just as transformation builds on wider awareness and con- 
nection in the individual brain, so our social imagination has 
been painfully, exquisitely enlivened by a nerve network of 
electronic sensing. Our awareness is joined in high human 
drama: political scandals, war and peacemaking, riots, acci- 
dents, grief, humor. And just as modem physics and Eastern 
philosophies are introducing a more integrated worldview to 
the West, our fluent media nervous system is linking our social 
brain. "Electronic circuitry," Marshall McLuhan said not long 
ago, "is Orientalizing the West. The contained, the distinct, the 
separate, our Western legacy — are being replaced by the flow- 
ing, the unified, the fused." 

These nerveways transmit our shocks and aches, our high 
moments and low, moon landings and murders, our collective 
frustrations, tragedies and trivia, institutional breakdowns in 
living color. They amplify the pain from alienated parts of our 
social body. They help break our cultural trance, crossing bor- 
ders and time zones, giving us glimpses of universal human 
qualities that illuminate our narrow ways and show us our 
connectedness. They give us models of transcendence: virtuoso 
performers and athletes, brave survivors, floods and fires, 
everyday heroism. 

Our collective nervous system mirrors our decadence. It 
arouses our right brains with music, archetypal dramas, start- 
ling visual sensations. It keeps our dream journal, taking notes 
on our fantasies and nightmares to tell us what we most want, 
what we most fear. If we let it, our technology can shock us out 
of the sleepwalking of the centuries. 

Max Lerner compared the society to a great organism with its 
own nervous system. "In recent decades we have witnessed a 
neural overburdening of society, a strain not unlike that which 
an individual feels when he finds himself on the brink of 
fatigue or a breakdown." Yet technology might now be ap- 
plied to move us further into the exploration of states of con- 

130 The Aquarian Conspiraq / 

sciousness, he said. "The new awareness movements, the 
new search for self, may make for cohesion rather than dis- 

The links in the expanding nervous system are not only the 
vast networks of commercial television and the daily newspa- 
pers and radio, but "other knowing" — innovative public televi- 
sion and small radio stations, small publishers, cooperatives of 
small magazines. There are newsletters, proliferating journals 
and magazines, self-published books. Every neighborhood has 
its quick-print shops, every supermarket and library its copy- 
ing machines. Ordinary citizens have access to audio and video 
cassettes, computer time, home computers, cooperative use of 
national long-distance lines, inexpensive electronic typesetting 
equipment. Everybody can be a Gutenberg. We communicate 
by bumper stickers and T-shirts. 

And our national penchant for self-questioning and search 
has turned increasingly inward, not only through the ever- 
present pop psychology and self-help books, but in original, 
radical sources: the literature of transformation. The books of 
Teilhard, forbidden publication in his lifetime, now sell in the 
millions. Abraham Maslow, Carl Jung, Aldous Huxley, Her- 
mann Hesse, Carl Rogers, J. Krishnamurti, Theodore Roszak, 
and Carlos Castaneda are hot properties on drugstore paper- 
back racks. 

And there are "new-age" publications of all kinds: radio pro- 
grams and newsletters, directories of organizations, lists of re- 
sources, Yellow Pages and handbooks, and new journals about 
consciousness, myth, transformation, the future. Thousands of 
spiritual titles roll off the presses in inexpensive editions. 

The "statements of purpose" of some of the transformation- 
oriented publications are clear about their commitment. Eastl 
West Journal, based in the Boston area, expresses an intention to 
"explore the dynamic equilibrium that unifies apparently op- 
posite values: Oriental and Occidental, traditional and mod- 
em We believe in people's freedom to chart the course of 

their lives as a boundless adventure We invite you to join 

us in this voyage of discovery, whose point of origin is every- 
where and whose goal is endless." 

New Dimensions Foundation in San Francisco, which pro- 
duces a syndicated radio show featuring interviews with 
the leading spokespeople on the subject of transformation, 
launched an "audio journal" — tape cassettes edited from its 
tens of thousands of hours of interviews, dating back to 1973. 
New Dimension's purpose is "to communicate the vision and 

The American Matrix 131 

the infinite possibilities of human potential ... to use the media 
to present new ideas, new choices, new options, new solu- 
tions ... to promote more communication about the nature of 
personal and social change.” 

If we are to dream a larger American dream, we must go 
beyond our own experience, much as the authors of the Con- 
stitution immersed themselves in the political and philosophi- 
cal ideas of many cultures and as the Transcendentalists syn- 
thesized insights from world literature and philosophy to frame 
their vision of inner freedom. 

Most of all, we must let go of an inappropriate cynicism and 
dualism. Trust in the possibility of change and a sense of the 
connectedness of all of life are essential to social transfor- 

Civilizations decline, Toynbee said, not so much because of 
invasions or other external forces but because of an internal 
hardening of ideas. The “elite creative minority" that once gave 
life to the civilization has been gradually replaced by another 
minority — still dominant, but no longer creative. 

Creativity requires constant transformation, experimenta- 
tion, flexibility. Cynicism, a chronic state of distrust, is antithet- 
ical to the openness necessary for a creative society. To the 
cynic, experiments are futile ... all conclusions are foregone. 
Cynics know the answers without having penetrated deeply 
enough to know the questions. When challenged by mysteri- 
ous truths, they marshal "facts.” Just as we must let go of dead 
philosophies, illusions, and old science to confront reality, so a 
country must keep challenging its traditions if it is to be 
transformed — if it wants renewal. 

Through the heavy seas of crisis, through social movements 
and wars, depressions, scandals, betrayals, the United States 
has been consistently open to change. When a television inter- 
viewer asked Revel in 1978 for his current assessment of the 
potential for transformation in America, he said, "The United 
States is still the most revolutionary country in the world, the 
laboratory for society. All the experiments — social, scientific, 
racial, intergenerational — are taking place in the U.S." 

The old hope of the Old World: a new world, a place for 
remaking oneself, a new start, a new life, freedom from tired 
identities and chafing limits. Historian C. Vann Woodward 
said, "The body of writings that make up Europe's America is 
enormous and still growing. Much of it has been speculative, 
uninformed, passionate, mythical, — about an America hoped 
for, dreamed of, despised, or instinctively feared." 

132 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

Dreamed of. . .and feared. The very possibility that we can 
remake our destiny someplace is as threatening, in some ways, 
as the knowledge that there are systems for interior search. 

“I say the sea is in," said poet Peter Levy. "... the new spirit 
is bluer than knowledge or history. In our lives, Europe is 
saying goodnight." 


We protect ourselves from change, even from the hope of 
change, by our superstitious cynicism. Yet all exploration must 
be fueled by hope. 

When the Wright brothers were attempting to fly the Kitty 
Hawk, an enterprising journalist interviewed people in their 
hometown, Dayton, Ohio. One elderly man said that if God 
had wanted man to fly. He would have given him wings, "and 
what's more, if anybody ever does fly, he won't be from Day- 
ton!" Seventy years later the first human-powered machine, 
the Gossamer Condor, became airborne. It had been built and 
flown in California — and Californians were not surprised. "If 
anybody ever does fly, he'll be from California." 

California, named for a mythical island, has been an island of 
myth in the United States, sanctuary of the endangered dream. 
"The flashing and golden pageant of California," Walt Whit- 
man called it: 

I see in you, certain to come, the promise of thousands of 

years, till now deferred. 

The new society at last . . . 

clearing the ground for broad humanity, the true America. 

If America is free, California is freer. If America is open to 
innovation, innovation is California's middle name. California 
is not so much different from the rest of the country as it is more 
so, a writer observed as early as 1883. California is a preview of 
our national paradigm shifts as well as our fads and fashions. 

In 1963 social critic Remi Nadeau predicted that California 
would soon be not the outpost but the wellspring of American 
culture. If Californians are developing a new society, "the ef- 
fect on the nation may be more than incidental." California 
seemed a kind of "forcing house" of national character. "Hav- 
ing left behind the social inhibitions of his old hometown, the 

The American Matrix 133 

Californian is a sort of American in the making. What the 
American is becoming, the Californian is already.” 

California, Nadeau said, is a magically honest and sometimes 
frightening mirror in which every national evil — and national 
good — can best be studied. "California contains not only a 
great danger, but a great hope. . . .Nowhere does the conflict 
between individual freedom and social responsibility have a 
more open arena or show a more advanced stage of struggle." 

The essence of the democratic experiment is tested in the 
laboratory of California. Having tended our national myth, 
California, purveyor of our electronic and celluloid myths, 
transmits it to those looking for hope. If it can work in Califor- 
nia, maybe it can be adapted and put to work elsewhere. 

The idea of America as the land of opportunity is more visible 
in California than anywhere, said James Houston, author of 
Continental Drift. "California is still the state where anything 
seems possible, where people bring dreams they aren't allowed 
to have anyplace else. So the rest of the country watches what 
goes on, because it's like a prophecy." 

A political writer referred to California as "a high-pressure 
microcosm of America, a fertile testing ground for national 
prominence in any field, particularly politics." James Wilson, in 
Challenge of California, made the point that the lack of party 
organization makes it easy for new groups to gain ascendancy 
in California. "These forces endeavor not so much to wrest 
power from those who hold it as to create power where none 
has existed before." 

David Broder, a national political columnist, said in 1978 that 
California's government is "more provocative in its program 
assumptions and more talented in its top-level administration 
than any other in America today, including the government in 
Washington. The competition in performance and reputation 
between Sacramento and Washington will continue in coming 

years California is big enough to provide a yardstick for 

measuring Washington's performance." 

In 1949, Carey McWilliams said in California: The Great Excep- 
tion that the main difference between California and the rest of 
the country was that "California has not grown or evolved so 
much as it has been hurtled forward, rocket- fashion. The lights 
went on all at once and have never dimmed." 

Certainly California's wealth has been a major factor in the 
tilt of power and influence toward the West Coast. It is rich — 
the seventh richest "country" in the world — and it accounts for 
12 percent of the Gross National Product of the United States. 
It is the most populous state in the country. Los Angeles 

134 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

County alone exceeds the population of forty-one states. A 
phenomenon that exists "only in California" may be very large 

Californians had an early opportunity to become disen- 
chanted with the mirage of a consumer heaven. Michael Davy, 
associate editor of The Observer in London, and that paper's 
former Washington correspondent, said in 1972: 

Californians have the time, the money, and the assurance 
of future comfort that leaves them with no alternative but 
to confront their anxieties. Hitherto, only a tiny elite in any 
society has ever asked itself the question: What am I? The 
rest have either been too busy staying alive or have been 
ready to accept a system of belief handed down by the 
elite. In California, not only is there no general system of 
belief, but millions of people have the opportunity — and 
many of them the education — to worry about that dreadful 

In an article titled "Anticipating America" in Saturday Review 
in late 1978, Roger Williams said that there is another California 
than the place America has come to imitate, mock, and envy. 
"One might call it California the future, the frontier — not fron- 
tier in the old Western sense but in the new national sense of 
innovativeness and openness." 

California's continuing growth reinforces the openness, he 
said, forcing the state to face its larger problems head-on. "It is 
a sense of paradise possibly lost, as well as a pervasive feeling 
of community, that makes California the nation's most aggres- 
sive attacker of major social problems." Williams remarked on 
Californians' pervasive interest and involvement in public af- 
fairs, in commissions and agencies. California pioneered in 
major protective legislation for the environment, coastline con- 
servation, energy research, and nuclear safeguards, he noted. 

Boorstin once described the United States as a Nation of 
Nations, so shaped by the visions of its immigrants that it is 
international. Similarly, California is enriched by a diversity of 
cultures, influenced by an Asian and European influx, a junc- 
tion of East and West, frontier for immigrants from the Ameri- 
can East, South, and Midwest. More than half its inhabitants 
were born elsewhere. 

California is also a synthesis of what C. P. Snow called the 
Two Cultures — Art and Science. Physicist Werner Heisenberg 
attributed the vitality and "human immediacy" of historic 

The American Matrix 135 

Munich to its historic blend of art and science. California is that 
blend in the United States. An estimated 80 percent of the 
country's pure science is pursued in California; its residents 
include more Nobel laureates than any other state, and a major- 
ity of the members of the National Academy of Sciences are 
Californians. The arts, both as business and avant-garde ex- 
perimentation, are a major enterprise in California. One public 
official estimated that nearly half a million people in greater Los 
Angeles "strive to make their living through the arts." The 
nation's entertainment is produced largely in California. Ac- 
tors, writers, musicians, painters, architects, and designers 
comprise a major industry. For better or for worse, they are in 
large measure creating the nation's culture. 

Historian William Irwin Thompson said that California is not 
so much a state of the Union as it is a state of mind, "an 
imagi-nation that seceded from our reality a long time ago." In 
leading the world in making a transition from industrial to 
postindustrial society, from hardware to software, from steel to 
plastic, from materialism to mysticism, "California became the 
first to discover that it is fantasy that leads reality, not the other 
way around." What we envision we can make real. 

The California dream of sun and economic freedom, like the 
expansionist American dream, has always had a second body, 
a transcendental vision of another kind of light and another 
kind of freedom. 

"The California Transcendentals" is the term given by critic 
Benjamin Mott to writers like Robinson Jeffers, John Muir, and 
Gary Snyder. "It's not just that, like Frost and Emerson, the 
California Transcendentals ask a certain height of us. They do. 
It's that at times they seem to be the only writers left in any 
region of this country with a clear idea of what elevation 
is. . . . Their true region is everywhere. In literary terms, they're 

If anything holds Californians together, Michael Davy sug- 
gested in 1972, it is "a search for a new religion," a vision that 
might emerge from "the mish-mash of Esalen-type thinking, 
revolutionary chatter, Huxleyan mysticism." Whatever the ori- 
gin of these new stirrings, he said, they might well have import 
for the entire country. 

"There is an orientalism in the most restless pioneer," 
Thoreau once said, "and the farthest west is but the farthest 
east." Gustave Flaubert also associated the farthest west with 
the farthest east: "I kept dreaming of Asiatic journeys, of going 
overland to China, of impossibilities, of the Indies or of 

236 The Aquarian Conspiraq/ 

California.” When Thoreau and Flaubert wrote those words in 
the nineteenth century, the West Coast was already dotted 
with centers and study groups revolving around Buddhism 
and "Hindoo” teachings. Today the influence of Eastern 
thought in California is pervasive. 

California is "a different kind of consciousness and a differ- 
ent kind of culture,” historian Page Smith said, possibly be- 
cause of the large geographical transition made by its immi- 
grants in the last century. "People leapt across whole barriers 
from Nebraska and Kansas, fifteen hundred miles to the Pacific 
Coast, and for a time there was a degree of isolation.” The state 
was also influenced by the long Spanish period and proximity 
to Mexico, the mild climate, the sense of a fresh start common 
to immigrant populations, and the lack of tradition. 

It makes sense that the Aquarian Conspiracy would be most 
evident in a pluralistic environment friendly to change and 
experimentation, among people whose relative wealth has 
given them the opportunity to become disenchanted with the 
materialist dream in its most hedonistic form, with few tradi- 
tions to overturn, tolerance of dissent, an atmosphere of ex- 
perimentation and innovation, and a long history of interest in 
Eastern philosophy and altered states of consciousness. 


In 1962 Look magazine sent a team headed by Senior Editor 
George Leonard to prepare a special issue on California. The 
trends Look reported reveal the early roots of the Aquarian 
Conspiracy in California. They quote a San Francisco lay 
leader: "In California, the old social compartments are being 
broken down, and we are creating a new aristocracy — an aris- 
tocracy of those who care. Membership is restricted only by the 
capacity for concern.” 

The magazine reported that California seemed to be develop- 
ing "a new kind of society and perhaps even a new kind of 
person able to cope with it.” One of the phenomena the report- 
ers mentioned was the apparent depth of relationships be- 
tween friends, which they attributed to there being few rela- 
tives at hand. 

Aldous Huxley, Look noted, was among the California resi- 
dents calling for a new national constitutional convention. 
"Many Californians are holding, in a sense, constitutional con- 
ventions,” the magazine reported, "at centers such as the one 

The American Matrix 137 

in Santa Barbara [Center for the Study of Democratic In- 
stitutions], the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral 
Sciences in Palo Alto, and the Stanford Research Institute; at 
board meetings of great corporations or planning groups; in 
state and city governments, and sometimes even in the living 
rooms of tract houses whose inhabitants came not so long ago 
from Iowa, Maine, or Georgia." 

Californians believe that anyone who cares to try can help 
shape the future, Look said, and quoted Alan Watts: "Tradi- 
tional patterns of relating, based on locality, are askew. Old 
thought patterns are being broken down. What people in the 
East can't see is that new patterns are being developed." 

In the 1950s and 1960s, Aldous Huxley, then living in Los 
Angeles, was among those who encouraged Michael Murphy 
and Richard Price in their 1961 decision to open Esalen, the 
residential center in California's Big Sur area that helped mid- 
wife much of what came to be known as the human-potential 
movement. Seminar leaders in Esalen's first three years in- 
cluded Gerald Heard, Alan Watts, Arnold Toynbee, Linus 
Pauling, Norman O. Brown, Carl Rogers, Paul Tillich, Rollo 
May, and a young graduate student named Carlos Castaneda. 

It was perhaps typical of the serendipity of those days that 
one evening in 1962 heavy fog on the treacherous coastal high- 
way through Big Sur forced a vacationing Abraham Maslow to 
seek shelter at the nearest residence. Maslow drove down the 
unmarked driveway through a tangle of shrubs to inquire 
about accommodation for the night. He had arrived in time for 
an Esalen study group that was unpacking a case of twenty 
copies of his latest book. 

Maslow's alliance with Esalen was an important linkage of 
networks on the two coasts. And in 1965 George Leonard and 
Michael Murphy joined forces. Leonard's account of their first 
meeting and subsequent collaboration conveys the intellectual 
excitement and visionary quality of the movement's earliest 
days. It also reveals the genesis of popular misunderstandings 
about what it meant. 

In 1964 and 1965 Leonard traveled around the country, work- 
ing on what he believed would be the most important story of 
his career. It would run in two or three subsequent issues of 
Look, he anticipated, and he intended to call it "The Human 
Potential." 5 

•'Leonard's article, which eventually ran to twenty thousand words, was never 
published. Look decided it was "too long and too theoretical." 

138 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

Several people had mentioned a rather mysterious young 
man named Michael Murphy, who ran a seemingly un- 
classifiable institute on the wild Big Sur coast of central 
California. I was told that Murphy, like the hero of 
Maugham's The Razor's Edge, had gone to India seeking 
enlightenment, had lived for eighteen months at the Au- 
robindo Ashram in Pondicherry. ... The institute was 
supposedly a forum for new ideas, especially those that 
combined the wisdom of East and West. I heard that Esa- 
len's first brochure flew under the title of a series of 1961 
lectures by Aldous Huxley: "Human Potentialities." 

As Leonard recalled their first meeting: 

The dinner was magical. Murphy's knowledge of Eastern 
philosophy was encyclopedic, and he talked about it as if it 
were a delicious tale of suspense and adventure. He had a 
strong sense of history and a compelling vision of the fu- 
ture. Nor was Murphy the kind of guru-seeker you can 

sometimes spot by the vague look in their eyes This 

seeker was on a decidedly American sadhana. You could 
easily see him in a warm-up suit, never in a flowing white 

After dinner we drove to my house and continued talk- 
ing for hours. The meeting of minds, of visions, was extra- 
ordinary, with each of us bringing just what was needed in 
the way of background knowledge to dovetail with that of 
the other. While Murphy had been studying Eastern phi- 
losophy and humanistic psychology, I had been studying 
social and political movements in the United States. 

They met at a vivid moment in the nation's history, Leonard 
recalls: Lyndon Johnson was pushing an idealist civil rights bill 
and his "war on poverty." There was a sense of changing con- 
sciousness in the country as social movements proliferated: 
sexual liberation, the Free Speech Movement, concern for the 
rights of Chicanos and American Indians, and, above all, the 
civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King. 

In the spirit of those times, it was natural to think in terms 
of "movements." Just as the civil rights movement would 
break down the barriers between the races, and thus other 
barriers, a human potential movement would help break 
down the barriers between mind and body, between East- 

The American Matrix 239 

em wisdom and Western action, between individual and 
society, and thus between the limited self and the potential 

Soon Leonard, Murphy, and others were not only planning 
residential programs at Esalen but seeking ways the insights of 
this new human-potential movement could be applied to the 
larger society. They saw its relevance to education, politics, 
health care, race relations, and city planning. Such divergent 
notables as B. F. Skinner and S. I. Hayakawa led Esalen semi- 
nars in the fall of 1965, along with Watts, Carl Rogers, J. B. 
Rhine, and others. Leonard said: 

It was a heady time. Will Schutz and Fritz Peris came to 
live at Esalen. New methods proliferated. The Esalen lodge 
became a carnival of innovation. ... In 1967 the institute 
opened a branch in San Francisco to take on urban prob- 
lems. I joined forces with the distinguished black psychia- 
trist Price Cobbs to lead marathon interracial confronta- 
tions. Mike Murphy moved to the city. Best yet — oh, glori- 
ous, golden days of grace! — all this happened pretty much 
out of the public eye. 

Then came the media — the television and radio reports, 
the magazine articles, the books — and we were faced with 
the contradictions, the paradoxes, and the heartaches that 
inevitably accompany any serious challenge to cultural 

Time's education section included what Leonard called a fairly 
objective article about Esalen in the fall of 1967, and United 
Press International covered Esalen's move to San Francisco. 

But it remained for a remarkable piece of writing in the 
December 31, 1967, issue of the New York Times Sunday 
Magazine to open the floodgates. 

I had learned by then that much of the publishing world 
used a very simple method of certification and reality test- 
ing: Until something appeared in the New York Times, you 
couldn't be sure it was real. When something appeared in 
a favorable light in the Times, you could bet it was not only 
real but worthy of further coverage. . . . 

So here we had "Joy is the Prize” by Leo Litwak, telling 
of the author's personal experience in a five-day Will 
Schutz encounter group and speculating on the Esalen vi- 

140 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

sion. The article had the requisite air of initial skepticism 
and closing irony but was generally positive. . . . Within 
days of its publication, editors all over New York were 
being bombarded with queries about doing a story, a 
show, a book on this strange place on the California coast 
and the "movement” it portended. 

Esalen did not welcome the publicity. Its policy had been to 
cooperate with reporters but to discourage coverage whenever 

Although only 15 percent of Esalen's programs were en- 
counter groups, Litwak had written about an encounter group, 
which led other reporters and the public to associate Esalen 
with them forever. Some reporters, bewildered by the wealth 
of new ideas at Esalen, finding them hard to categorize, settled 
for cynicism. Others became true believers, Leonard said, 
and "helped create false expectations that led to eventual 

Inevitably, human-potential centers were springing up 
around the country. At various times Murphy and Price were 
approached by individuals wanting to affiliate with Esalen, 
using the name for their own centers. They refused but actively 
encouraged all competition. 

The new society forming had spiritual underpinnings that 
were hard to identify. Jacob Needleman, reflecting in 1973 on 
his first years in California, said: 

The person I was then could never have undertaken to 

write this book [The New Religions ] Even apart from my 

intellectual convictions, there was this whole matter of 
California. As a transplanted Easterner, I felt duty-bound 
not to take anything in California very seriously. I certainly 

felt no need to understand California To me it was a 

place desperately lacking in the experience of limita- 
tion. . . . 

I still do not claim to understand California, but I am 
certain that it cannot be taken lightly from any point of 
view Something is struggling to be born here. 

... I wish I could state clearly what it is about California 
that makes so many of its people — and not just the 
young — so much more accessible to the cosmic dimension 
of human life — But the undeniable fact is that by and 
large the West Coast does not exhibit the sort of intellec- 
tualism found in our eastern cities, an intellectualism 

The American Matrix 141 

rooted in [the] European sense of the human mind as au- 
tonomous and outside nature. 

In any case, it is not reality which Californians have left 
behind; it is Europe.... I began to see that my idea of 
intelligence was a modem European idea; the mind, unfet- 
tered by emotion, disembodied, aristocratically articu- 
late I saw that I had judged California on its lack of the 

European element. 

The Aquarian Conspiracy, needless to say, is nurtured in 
California. 6 Its “agents" from the Boston- Cambridge area, from 
New York and Washington, London, Denver, Minneapolis, 
Houston, Chicago, and hundreds of smaller cities rally in 
California from time to time for sustenance and courage. 

The large “consciousness" conference, a California invention 
of the early 1970s, was a perfect device for this national 
crossfertilization. Beginning in 1975, California groups began 
organizing road shows — conferences and seminars all over the 
country. 7 In many cities strong local links were then estab- 
lished, and subsequent programs were staged by locals. Con- 
ference budgets tried to provide for continuous liaison. Small 
workshops proved even more flexible strategies for moving 
people about the country. Through such meetings the con- 
spirators typically pooled the names of friends and contacts, 
quickly enlarging and linking the networks. Cassette tapes of 
conference lectures were disseminated by the thousand. 

Ironically, while the eastern United States tends to patronize 
the West Coast as a bizarre relative. Radio Television Belgium 
sent a team to Los Angeles to film a documentary on how the 
1960s counterculture had affected the 1970s, explaining that 
“what happens in California will eventually happen in 

If California has once again anticipated the next step, the 
prospects for national change are strong indeed. 

6 Although nearly half of those responding to the Aquarian Conspiracy ques- 
tionnaire now live in California, most were bom in the East or Midwest. The 
role of California and its immigrants as catalysts for social transformation was 
proclaimed in the invitation to a 1979 conference in Sacramento, "California 
Renaissance," sponsored by the Association for Humanistic Psychology. Par- 
ticipants were to look at the "significance, promise, and dangers of the 
California experience" in terms of personal and planetary evolution. 

7 Two of the earliest such conferences were sponsored, interestingly, by the 
Lockheed Corporation. They were held in the San Jose area in 1971 and 
featured scientists and physicians. 

142 The Aquarian Conspiracy 


James Alan McPherson, a young Black who won the Pulitzer 
Prize for fiction, recently traced the advancement of freedoms 
from the Magna Carta to the Charter of the United Nations. “In 
the gradual elaboration of basic rights," he said, “an outline of 
something much more complex than 'black' and 'white' had 
begun." A new citizenship becomes possible in which “each 
United States citizen [could] attempt to approximate the ideals 
of the nation, be on at least conversant terms with all its diver- 
sity, and carry the mainstream of the culture inside himself." 

Each American would be a synthesis of high and low, black 
and white, city and country, provincial and universal. “If he 
could live with these contradictions, he would be simply a rep- 
resentative American." 

He quoted the Spanish philosopher, Miguel de Unamuno, 
who called attention to the adoption of the word desperado in 
English: “It is despair, and despair alone, that begets heroic 
hope, absurd hope, mad hope." McPherson added: 

I believe that the United States is complex enough to in- 
duce that sort of despair that begets heroic hope. I believe 
that if one can experience its diversity, touch a variety of its 
people, laugh at its craziness, distill wisdom from its 
tragedies, and attempt to synthesize all this inside oneself 
without going crazy, one will have earned the right to call 
oneself “citizen of the United States." . . . One will have 
begun on that necessary movement. 

This movement from a hopeless person to a desperado, he 
said, is “the only new direction I know." 

American society has at hand most of the factors that could 
bring about collective transformation: relative freedom, relative 
tolerance, affluence enough to be disillusioned with affluence, 
achievements enough to know that something different is 
needed. We have been temperamentally innovative, bold, and 
confident. Our national myth says that we can have the alterna- 
tive if we have the imagination and the will. 

“To be an American," said social and literary critic Leslie 
Fiedler, “is precisely to imagine a destiny rather than inherit 
one. We have always been inhabitants of myth rather than 

To imagine a destiny, to transcend a past . . . We have little to 
lose by the remaking of our family institutions. We have begun 

The American Matrix 143 

to know our complex selves: our roots, our collective mid-life 
crisis, our sexuality and death and renewal, our paradoxical 
yearning for both freedom and order, our costly addictions. 
We sense the limits of our old science, the dangers of our top- 
heavy hierarchies, and we see the context of our planet. 

We begin to feel our tangible and spiritual connection with 
other cultures. We have awakened our power to learn and to 

And we have ideas. 

Afraid or not, we seem to have made it past the entry point 
into real transformation: past the cultural shake-up, the vio- 
lence, the fascination and excesses, the fear of the new and 
uncharted. We have begun to imagine the possible society. 


Any truth creates a scandal. 

— MARGUERITE YOURCENAR, The Memoirs of Hadrian 

/ ^v\ Our discoveries about the startling nature of reality 
are a major force for change, undermining common- 
sense ideas and old institutional philosophies. “The 
' 1980s will be a revolutionary time," said physicist 
Fritjof Capra, “because the whole structure of our society does 
not correspond with the world-view of emerging scientific 

The agenda of the coming decade is to act on this new scien- 
tific knowledge — discoveries that revise the very data base on 
which we have built our assumptions, our institutions, our 
lives. It promises far more than the old reductionist view. It 
reveals a rich, creative, dynamic, interconnected reality. Na- 
ture, we are learning, is not a force over which we must 
triumph but the medium of our transformation. 

The mysteries we will explore in this chapter are not remote 
from us, like black holes in outer space, but ourselves. Our 
brains and bodies. The genetic code. The nature of change. The 


146 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

widening and shrinking of conscious experience. The power of 
imagination and intention. The plastic nature of intelligence 
and perception. 

We live what we know. If we believe the universe and our- 
selves to be mechanical, we will live mechanically. On the other 
hand, if we know that we are part of an open universe, and that 
our minds are a matrix of reality, we will live more creatively 
and powerfully. 

If we imagine that we are isolated beings, so many inner 
tubes afloat on an ocean of indifference, we will lead different 
lives than if we know a universe of unbroken wholeness. Be- 
lieving in a world of fixity, we will fight change; knowing a 
world of fluidity, we will cooperate with change. 

As Abraham Maslow said, a fear of knowing is very deeply a 
fear of doing, because of the responsibility inherent in new 
knowledge. These new discoveries reveal aspects of nature too 
rich for analysis, yet we can understand them. On some 
level — call it heart, right brain, gut, collective unconscious — we 
recognize the rightness, even the simplicity of the principles 
involved. They fit with deeply buried knowledge within us. 

Science is only confirming paradoxes and intuitions human- 
kind has come across many times but stubbornly disregarded. 
It is telling us that our social institutions and our very ways of 
existence violate nature. We fragment and freeze that which 
should be moving and dynamic. We construct unnatural 
hierarchies of power. We compete when we might cooperate. 

If we read the handwriting on the wall of science, we see the 
critical need to change — to live with nature, not against it. 

Discoveries from many realms of science — brain research, 
physics, molecular biology, research on learning and con- 
sciousness, anthropology, psychophysiology — have come to- 
gether in revolutionary ways, yet the emergent picture is by no 
means well known. Word from the scientific frontier usually 
leaks back only through highly specialized channels, some- 
times garbled. But it concerns us all; it is news to be broken, not 
a diary to be classified. 

Before we look at the discoveries, we'll consider briefly the 
reasons we have heard the news only in bits, if at all. Certainly 
no one censors it. Part of the communication problem, as we 
shall see, is the strangeness of what is being found; part results 
from the extreme specialization of the researchers and their 
own lack of an overview. Very few people are synthesizing the 
information being gathered in far-flung places. It is as if mili- 
tary scouts were continually returning from reconnaissance 

Liberating Knowledge 147 

missions with observations and there were no generals to put it 
all together. 

Once upon a time, everybody "did" science. Long before 
science was a career, people tried to understand nature for their 
own amusement and excitement. They collected specimens, 
experimented, built microscopes and telescopes. Although 
some of these hobby scientists became famous, it hardly occurs 
to us that they were untrained in the formal sense; they wrote 
no dissertations for graduate schools. 

And we were all scientists, too — curious children, testing 
substances on our tongues, discovering gravity, peering under 
rocks, seeing patterns in the stars, wondering what makes the 
night scary and the sky blue. 

Partly because the educational system has taught science 
only in a reductionist, left-brain style and partly because of the 
society's demands for practical applications of technology, the 
romance of science fades quickly for most youngsters. Those 
who love nature but dislike dissecting small animals soon learn 
to avoid high-school biology. Students who enroll in psychol- 
ogy courses, hoping to learn something about how people 
think and feel, find themselves learning more about rats and 
statistics than they ever wanted to know. 

In higher education, science narrows further. The hu~ 
manities-oriented sheep and the science- oriented goats are 
herded into their respective pens; at many universities, the 
science and humanities centers are blocks apart. Most students 
sidestep any science beyond the minimum required hours; the 
science majors are funnelled into their specialties, subspe- 
cialties, and microspecialties. By graduate school, they can 
scarcely communicate with each other. 

Most of us end up feeling that science is something special, 
separate, outside our ken, like Greek or archeology. A minority 
pursue it narrowly, and we have C. P. Snow's Two Cultures, 
Science and Art, each a little superior, a little envious, and 
tragically incomplete. 

Each scientific discipline is an island, as well. Specialization 
has kept most scientists from trespassing into "fields" other 
than their own, both from fear of looking foolish and from the 
difficulty of communication. Synthesis is left to the hardy few, 
the irrepressibly creative researchers whose breakthroughs 
make work for the whole industry. 

At a recent annual meeting of the American Association for 
the Advancement of Science (founded to foster interdiscipli- 
nary exchange), anthropologists reportedly met in one 

148 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

Philadelphia hotel to hear reports about the probable causes for 
the extinction of tribes. At the same hour, hundreds of 
biologists convened in a nearby hotel to discuss the reason for 
the extinction of species. The two groups — in their separate 
hotels — came up with the same answer: over-specialization. 

Specialization has spawned another problem: technical and 
mathematical languages — a Tower of Babel. 

In brain science alone, half a million papers are published 
annually. Neuroscience has become such an esoteric discipline, 
so narrowly subspecialized, that the researchers have extraor- 
dinary difficulty in communicating even among themselves. 
Only a handful of researchers are trying to make sense of 
the whole. 

The second reason for the communications gap is the utter 
strangeness of the new worldview. We are required to make 
paradigm shift after paradigm shift, to drastically alter our old 
beliefs and to see from a new perspective. 

It has been said that science replaces common sense with 
knowledge. Indeed, our most advanced intellectual adventures 
carry us into wonderlands beyond the boundaries of logical, 
linear understanding. There is a much-quoted observation of 
the great biologist, J. B. S. Haldane, that reality is not only 
stranger than we conceive but stranger than we can conceive. 

There is no bottom line in nature. There is no deepest place 
where it all makes tidy sense. This can be frightening. It can 
make us feel as if we are regressing to childhood, when nature 
seemed immense, mysterious, potent. Later we learned to sort 
facts from fancy, and mystery was reduced to “explanations." 
“Facts" about lightning or magnetism or radio waves, for 
example, led us to think that nature was understood or about to 
be understood. This mistaken view, held by most scientists in 
the late-nineteenth century, carried over into popular misun- 
derstanding of the powers of science. 

Now, when our most advanced science begins to sound 
mythic and symbolic — when it relinquishes hope of achieving 
ultimate certainty — we are disbelieving. It is as if we are being 
asked to re-create the awe and credulity of early childhood, 
before we knew what a rainbow “really" was. 

As we shall see, the new science goes beyond cool, clinical 
observations to a realm of shimmering paradox, where our very 
reason seems endangered. Yet, just as we can take advantage 
of great technological developments of our civilization, like the 
transistor, our lives can be liberated by the new worldview of 
radical science, whether we understand the technicalities or not. 

Liberating Knowledge 149 

Many of the vital insights of modem science are expressed in 
mathematics, a "language" most of us neither speak nor un- 
derstand. Ordinary language is inadequate to deal with the 
nonordinary. Words and sentences have given us a false sense 
of understanding, blinding us to the complexity and dynamics 
of nature. 

Life is not constructed like a sentence, subject acting on ob- 
ject. In reality many events affect each other simultaneously. 
Take, for example, the impossibility of sorting out who-did- 
what-first or who-caused-what-behavior in a family. We con- 
struct all of our explanations on a linear model that exists only 
as an ideal. 

Semanticists like Alfred Korzybski and Benjamin Whorf 
warned that Indo-European languages trap us in a fragmented 
model of life. They disregard relationship. By their subject- 
predicate structure, they mold our thought, forcing us to think 
of everything in terms of simple cause and effect. For this rea- 
son it is hard for us to talk about — or even think about — 
quantum physics, a fourth dimension, or any other notion 
without dearcut beginnings and endings, up and down, then 
and now. 

Events in nature have simultaneous multiple causes. Some 
languages, notably Hopi and Chinese, are structured differ- 
ently and can express nonlinear ideas with less strain. They 
can, in effect, "speak physics." Like the anrient Greeks, whose 
philosophy strongly influenced the left-brained West, we say, 
"The light flashed." But the light and the flash were one. A 
Hopi would more accurately say, "Reh-pi!" — "Flash!" 

Korzybski warned that we will not grasp the nature of reality 
until we realize the limitation of words. Language frames our 
thought, thereby setting up barriers. The map is not the terri- 
tory. A rose is not a rose is a rose; the apple of August 1 is not 
the apple of September 10 or the wizened fruit of October 2. 
Change and complexity always outrun our powers of description . 

Ironically, even most sdentists do not relate scientific knowl- 
edge to everyday life. Peer pressure discourages them from 
searching for wider meaning or significance "outside their 
field." They keep what they know compartmentalized and ir- 
relevant, like a religion practiced only on holy days. Only a few 
have the intellectual rigor and personal courage to try to inte- 
grate their science into their lives. Capra remarked that most 
physicists go home from the laboratory and live their lives as if 
Newton, not Einstein, were right — as if the world were frag- 
mented and mechanical. "They don't seem to realize the 

150 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

philosophical, cultural, and spiritual implications of their 

Our quantifying instruments — electron microscopes, com- 
puters, telescopes, random-number generators, EEGs, statis- 
tics, test tubes, integral calculus, cyclotrons — have finally given 
us passage to a realm beyond numbers. What we find is not 
nonsense but a kind of meta-sense — not illogical, but tran- 
scending logic as we once defined it. 

Creating a new theory, Einstein once said, is not like erecting 
a skyscraper in the place of an old barn. "It is rather like climb- 
ing a mountain, gaining new and wider views, discovering 
unexpected connections between our starting point and its rich 
environment. But the point from which we started out still 
exists and can be seen, although it appears smaller and forms a 
tiny part of our broad view. ..." 


Like the Flatlanders, we have been at least one dimension 
short. This dimension, however strange it may seem at first, in 
a very real sense is the genesis of our world— our real home. 

This chapter will take us through several scientific doorways 
into that other dimension. Technical terms have been kept to a 
minimum so that the "story line" can better be followed. Those 
who want to pursue the data will find technical references at 
the back of the book. 

The left brain is a useful companion on a voyage of discov- 
ery — up to a point. Its measuring genius has brought us to our 
present respect for, and intellectual belief in, the larger dimen- 
sion. But in many ways it is like Virgil in Dante's Divine Comedy. 
Virgil could escort the poet through Hell and Purgatory, where 
everything was reasonable, where, for example, the punish- 
ment fit the crime. 

But when Dante came to the perimeters of Paradise, Virgil 
had to stay behind. He could confront the mystery but he could 
not penetrate it. Beatrice, the poet's muse, accompanied him 
into the place of transcendence. 

Nonlinear understanding is more like "tuning in" than 
traveling from point to point. The scientific discoveries dis- 
cussed in this chapter take us into a country whose cartography 
is felt rather than traced. 

When the left brain confronts the nonlinear dimension, it 
keeps circling around, breaking wholes into parts, retracing its 

Liberating Knowledge 151 

data, and asking inappropriate questions, like a reporter at a 
funeral. Where, when, how, why? We have to inhibit its ques- 
tions for the moment, suspend its judgment, or we cannot 
"get" the other dimension, any more than you can see both 
perspectives of the optical-illusion staircase at the same 
time — or be swept away by a symphony while analyzing the 

A world without space and time is not completely foreign 
to our experience. It is a little like our dreams, where past 
and future seem to run together, where locations shift mys- 

Recall the model of the paradigm shift introduced by Thomas 
Kuhn: Every important new idea in science sounds strange at 
first. As the physicist Niels Bohr put it, great innovations in- 
evitably appear muddled, confusing, and incomplete, only 
half-understood even by their discoverers, and a mystery to 
everyone else. There is no hope, Bohr said, for any speculation 
that does not look absurd at first glance. Bohr once remarked of 
an idea advanced by his famous colleague Werner Heisenberg, 
"It isn't crazy enough to be true." (As it turned out, it wasn't. 1 ) 

If we stubbornly refuse to look at that which seems magical 
or incredible, we are in distinguished company. The French 
Academy announced at one point that it would not accept any 
further reports of meteorites, since it was clearly impossible for 
rocks to fall out of the sky. Shortly thereafter a rain of meteor- 
ites came close to breaking the windows of the Academy. 

If scientists are slow to accept new information, the public is 
usually even slower. Erwin Schrodinger, the great physicist, 
once said that it takes at least fifty years before a major scientific 
discovery penetrates the public consciousness — half a century 
before people realize what truly surprising beliefs are held by 
leading scientists. The human species can no longer afford the 
luxury of such long double-takes or the leisurely changes of 
heart of entrenched scientists. The cost is too great: in our 
ecology, our relationships, our health, our conflict, our threat- 
ened collective future. We are duty-bound to search, question, 
open our minds. 

A major task of the Aquarian Conspiracy is to foster 
paradigm shifts by pointing out the flaws in the old paradigm 
and showing how the new context explains more — makes more 
sense. As we will see, the most powerful transformative ideas 

'Charles Richet, who won the Nobel prize for his discovery of allergic shock, 
was criticized when he undertook to study clairvoyance. "I didn't say it was 
possible," Richet responded. "I only said it was true." 

152 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

from modem science connect like parts of a puzzle. They sup- 
port each other; together they form the scaffolding for a wider 

Each of these major ideas is a whole in itself, a system for 
understanding a spectrum of phenomena in our lives and in 
society. Each also has uncanny parallels to ancient poetic and 
mystical descriptions of nature. Science is only now verifying 
what humankind has known intuitively since the dawn of 

In The Morning of the Magicians Pauwels and Bergier specu- 
lated that an open conspiracy exists among scientists who have 
discovered these metaphysical realities. Many of the Aquarian 
Conspirators are scientists, a fraternity of paradigm breakers 
who cross into each other's territory for new insights. Many 
more have an intense lay interest in the frontiers of research. 
They draw their models for social change from scientific in- 
sights about how nature really, radically works. Other con- 
spirators have become interested in science because they want 
to understand the physical basis for experiences they have had 
through the psychotechnologies. 2 

By supporting programs where scientists from many disci- 
plines can discuss the implications of their work for society and 
for personal change, the Aquarian Conspiracy plays an impor- 
tant educational role. For example, a fairly typical program 
staged in New York in late 1978 featured two physicists, Nobel 
laureate Eugene Wigner and Fritjof Capra; psychologist Jean 
Houston, a researcher in altered states of consciousness; brain 
scientist Karl Pribram; and Swami Rama, a yogi who became 
famous in the early 1970s when the Menninger Foundation and 
other laboratories verified his remarkable ability to control 
physiological processes (including virtually stopping his heart). 
Their topic: "New Dimensions of Consciousness." 

The brochure for the conference, also typical, characterized 
the convergence of science and intuition: 

Today we are on the brink of a new synthesis. In the past 
four centuries western science has experienced a continous 
shattering and reforming of its basic concepts. Now the 

2 In a sense, the Aquarian Conspirators represent the Two Cultures: typically, 
they are involved in both science and the arts. A high percentage of those 
surveyed play a musical instrument; engage regularly in arts or crafts; and/or 
read fiction, poetry, and science fiction. From science they seek more than 
information; they seek meaning — the essential quest of the artist. 

Liberating Knowledge 153 

scientific community has begun to recognize striking corre- 
lations between their findings and those expressed 
abstrusely by ancient mystics. This is a convocation of vi- 
sionary men and women pioneering this new synthesis. 

Similar programs have been presented all around the 
country — at universities and science museums, in the inner 
chambers of establishment science — with titles like On the Ulti- 
mate Nature of Reality, The Physics of Consciousness, Consciousness 
and Cosmos, Consciousness and Cultural Change. 


Until the 1960s there were relatively few scientists studying the 
brain and even fewer researching the interaction between the 
brain and conscious experience. Since then brain and con- 
sciousness research has become a thriving industry. The more 
we know in this field, the more radical our questions become. 
"There will be no end to this enterprise," said John Eccles, a 
Nobel- laureate neuroscientist, "not for centuries." 

Beginning in the sixties biofeedback research demonstrated 
that human subjects can control delicate, complex, internal 
processes long believed to be involuntary. In the laboratory, 
people were trained to speed up and slow down their heart 
rate, alter the electrical activity on the surface of the skin, shift 
from rapid beta-rhythm brainwaves to slower alpha-rhythm. 
Human subjects learned to "fire" (cause a bioelectrical action 
in) a single motor nerve cell. A pioneer researcher in biofeed- 
back, Barbara Brown, has remarked that this deep biological 
awareness reflects the mind's ability to alter every physiological 
system, every cell in the body. 

Although biofeedback subjects knew how these shifts felt, 
they were helpless to explain how they were achieved. On one 
level biofeedback seems like a straightforward phenomenon; 
monitoring bodily information by machine readout, tone cues, 
or lights one can identify the sensations associated with fluctu- 
ations in feedback. But there is a mysterious gap between inten- 
tion and physiological action. How can one's will select a single 
cell out of billions and cause it to discharge? Or release a spe- 
cific chemical? Or limit the flow of gastric juices? Or alter the 
rhythmic behavior of populations of brain cells? Or dilate capil- 
laries to increase hand temperature? 

154 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

Awareness is wider and deeper than anyone had guessed; intention, 
more powerful. Clearly, human beings have not begun to exploit their 
potential for change. 

Biofeedback phenomena sent researchers scurrying back to 
the handful of scientific reports on yogis reported to have such 
control — without feedback. Until the phenomenon was verified 
in biofeedback laboratories, it had been widely assumed that 
the yogis had somehow tricked the few investigators willing to 
look at their feats. 

Emerging at the same time were laboratory studies of medita- 
tion and other altered states of consciousness. Distinctive phys- 
iological changes in EEG, respiration, and electrical activity on 
the skin surface were found in meditators. The higher- 
amplitude, more rhythmic, slower brainwave patterns con- 
firmed the claims of the psychotechnologies that practitioners 
achieve greater internal harmony. 

During that same period, split-brain research (discussed in 
Chapter 3) demonstrated that human beings are indeed "of two 
minds" and that such centers of consciousness can function 
independently from each other in a single skull. The impor- 
tance of this research, which opened a related field studying 
brain-hemisphere specialization, cannot be overstated. It 
helped us understand the distinctive nature of "holistic" pro- 
cesses; the mysterious knowing that had been insisted upon, 
disputed, and doubted over the centuries. The phenomenon 
of "intuition" was now vaguely situated on the neuroana- 
tomical map. 

The quantifying brain confirmed the reality of its qualita- 
tively different "minor" hemisphere — an equal, if repressed, 
partner. Its powers were evident in the amazing performances 
of biofeedback subjects, the altered physiological processes 
measured in mediators, the strange double awareness in split- 
brain patients. More subtle techniques soon revealed the pres- 
ence of the "other mind" in general perception. Researchers 
demonstrated that our attention is exquisitely selective, biased 
by belief and emotion; we can process information in parallel 
channels at the same time; we have extraordinary capacities for 
memory (if not always easy access to our data banks). 

In the mid-seventies a series of breakthroughs opened an 
exciting new research field that is radicalizing what we know 
about how the brain works. Best known is the discovery of the 
class of brain substances known as endorphins or enkephalins, 
sometimes referred to as "the brain's own morphine" because 

Liberating Knowledge 155 

they were first identified by their action at the brain sites where 
morphine has its effect. Like morphine, the endorphins are also 

The endorphins and the other brain substances of the class 
known as peptides added a new principle to brain function. 
The known chemical transmitters in the brain had been 
tracked; they work in a linear way, from cell to cell. But the new 
substances are more simultaneous in their action; they seem to 
modulate the activity of brain cells much as one tunes a radio 
and adjusts for volume. Some of them "broadcast” messages as 
well, which led Roger Guillemin, a Nobel-laureate researcher 
in the field, to suggest the existence of a "new" nervous system 
comprised of these substances. 

Because the peptides are general and powerful in their ac- 
tion, their effects on the body and behavior are often dramatic. 
The endorphins, for example, have been shown to affect sexu- 
ality, appetite, social bonding, pain perception, alertness, 
learning, reward, seizures, and psychosis. Experiments have 
implicated the endorphins in the mysterious placebo effect, in 
which an inactive substance like a sugar pill produces relief 
because the patient expects it. Patients experiencing placebo 
relief from postoperative dental discomfort reported a recur- 
rence of pain after they were given a chemical that interferes 
with the endorphins. Faith, inspired by the placebo, apparently 
releases endorphins. How it happens is as big a mystery as 
how intention works in biofeedback. 

The endorphins may also be the system that enables us to 
push from our minds whatever we do not want to feel or think 
about — the chemistry of denial. Also, they are clearly involved 
in states of mental well-being. Infant animals distressed by 
separation from their mothers show a drop in endorphin levels. 
There is evidence that eating releases endorphins in the diges- 
tive system, which may explain the comfort some people obtain 
from food. 

There are many different substances in the endorphin family 
and they produce different effects. Chemically, endorphins are 
molecules broken down from a very large molecule — itself re- 
cently found to be stored within an enormous molecule. The 
brain seems to take these chemicals out of "cold storage" as 

Mental states such as loneliness, compulsion, anguish, at- 
tachment, pain, and faith are not just "all in the head" but in 
the brain as well. Brain, mind, and body are a continuum. 

156 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

Our thoughts — intention, fear, images, suggestion, ex- 
pectation — alter the brain's chemistry. And it works both ways; 
thoughts can be altered by changing the brain's chemistry with 
drugs, nutrients, oxygen. 

The brain is hopelessly complex. Biologist Lyall Watson 
spoke of the Catch-22 of brain research: "If the brain were so 
simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we 


Ironically, scientific insights into the brain's holistic talents — its 
right-hemisphere capacity to comprehend wholes — raise seri- 
ous questions about the scientific method itself. Science has 
always tried to understand nature by breaking things into their 
parts. Now it is overwhelmingly clear that wholes cannot be un- 
derstood by analysis. This is one of those logical boomerangs, like 
the mathematical proof that no mathematical system can be 
truly coherent in itself. 

The Greek prefix syn ("together with"), as in synthesis, 
synergy, syntropy, becomes increasingly meaningful. When 
things come together something new happens. In relationship 
there is novelty, creativity, richer complexity. Whether we are 
talking about chemical reactions or human societies, molecules 
or international treaties, there are qualities that cannot be pre- 
dicted by looking at the components. 

Half a century ago in Holism and Evolution Jan Smuts tried to 
synthesize Darwin's evolutionary theory, Einstein's physics, 
and his own insights to account for the evolution of mind as 
well as matter. 

Wholeness, Smuts said, is a fundamental characteristic of 
the universe — the product of nature's drive to synthesize. 
"Holism is self-creative, and its final structures are more holistic 
than its initial structures." These wholes — in effect, these 
unions — are dynamic, evolutionary, creative. They thrust to- 
ward ever-higher orders of complexity and integration. "Evolu- 
tion," Smuts said, "has an ever deepening, inward spiritual 

As we'll see shortly, modem science has verified the quality 
of whole-making, the characteristic of nature to put things to- 
gether in an ever-more synergistic, meaningful pattern. 

General Systems Theory, a related modem concept, says 

Liberating Knowledge 157 

that each variable in any system interacts with the other vari- 
ables so thoroughly that cause and effect cannot be separated. 
A single variable can be both cause and effect. Reality will not 
be still. And it cannot be taken apart! You cannot understand a 
cell, a rat, a brain structure, a family, or a culture if you isolate it 
from its context. Relationship is everything. 

Ludwig von Bertalanffy said that General Systems Theory 
aims to understand the principles of wholeness and self- 
organization at all levels: 

Its applications range from the biophysics of cellular pro- 
cesses to the dynamics of populations, from the problems 
of physics to those of psychiatry and those of political and 
cultural units 

General Systems Theory is symptomatic of a change in 
our worldview. No longer do we see the world in a blind 
play of atoms, but rather a great organization. 

This theory says that history, while interesting and instruc- 
tive, may not predict the future at all. Who can say what the 
dance of variables will produce tomorrow. . . next month . . . 
next year? Surprise is inherent in nature. 


In Arthur Clarke's Childhood's End, the mysterious extraterres- 
trial Overlords, who have controlled Earth for a hundred years, 
explain that they are only interim protectors of humankind. 
Despite their greater intellectual powers, the Overlords are in 
an evolutionary cul-de-sac, whereas humanity has the capabil- 
ity of infinite evolution. 

Above us is the Overmind, using us as the potter uses his 
wheel. And your race is the clay that is being shaped on 
that wheel. 

We believe — it is only a theory — that the Overmind is 
trying to grow, to extend its powers and its awareness of 
the universe. By now, it must be the sum of many races, 
and long ago it left the tyranny of matter behind — It sent 
us here to do its bidding, to prepare you for the transfor- 
mation that is now at hand 

As to the nature of the change, we can tell you very 

158 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

little ... it spreads explosively, like the formation of crys- 
tals round the first nucleus in a saturated solution. 

What Clarke described in literary metaphor, many serious sci- 
entists have expressed in academic terms. They suspect that 
we may be playing upon our own evolution, as on a musical 

Darwin's theory of evolution by chance mutation and survi- 
val of the fittest has proven hopelessly inadequate to account 
for a great many observations in biology. Just as inadequacies 
in Newton's physics led Einstein to formulate a shocking new 
theory, so a larger paradigm is emerging to broaden our under- 
standing of evolution. 

Darwin insisted that evolution happened very gradually. 
Steven Jay Gould, a Harvard biologist and geologist, notes that 
on the eve of the publication of The Origin of Species, T. H. 
Huxley wrote Darwin, promising to battle on his behalf but 
warning that he had burdened his argument unnecessarily by 
this insistence. Darwin's portrayal of glacially slow evolution 
reflected in part his admiration of Charles Lyell, who promoted 
the idea of gradualism in geology. Evolution was a stately and 
orderly process in Darwin's view, Gould noted, ''working at a 
speed so slow that no person could hope to observe it in his 

And just as Lyell rejected the evidence for cataclysm in geol- 
ogy, Darwin ignored problems in his own evidence. True, 
there seemed to be great gaps, missing rungs in the ladder of 
evolution, but he believed these were just imperfections in the 
geological record. Change only seemed abrupt. 

But to this day fossil evidence has not turned up the neces- 
sary missing links. Gould called the extreme rarity in the fossil 
record of transitional forms of life "the trade secret of paleon- 
tology." Younger scientists, confronted by the continuing ab- 
sence of such missing links, are increasingly skeptical of the old 
theory. "The old explanation that the fossil record was in- 
adequate is in itself an inadequate explanation," said Niles El- 
dredge of the American Museum of Natural History. 

Gould and Eldredge independently proposed a resolution of 
this problem, a theory that is consistent with the geological 
record. Soviet paleontologists have proposed a similar theory. 
Punctuationalism or punctuated equilibrium suggests that the 
equilibrium of life is "punctuated" from time to time by severe 
stress. If a small segment of the ancestral population is isolated 
at the periphery of its accustomed range, it may give way to a 

Liberating Knowledge 159 

new species. Also, the population is stressed intensely because it is 
living at the edge of its tolerance. “Favorable variations spread 
quickly," Gould said. “Small peripheral isolates are the 
laboratory of evolutionary change." 

Most species do not change direction during their tenure on 
earth. "They appear in the fossil record looking much the same 
as when they disappear," Gould said. A new species arises 
suddenly in the geological evidence. It does not evolve gradu- 
ally by the steady change of its ancestors, but all at once and fully 

The old paradigm saw evolution as a steady climb up a lad- 
der, whereas Gould and others liken it to a branching out of 
various limbs of a tree. For instance, anthropologists have dis- 
covered in recent years that at one time there were at least three 
coexisting hominids — creatures that had evolved beyond the 
ape. Earlier it was believed that these different specimens 
formed a sequence. Now it is known that one "descendant" 
was living at the same time as its presumed ancestors. Several 
different lineages split from the parent stock, the lower pri- 
mates. Some survived and continued to evolve, while others 
disappeared. The large-brained Homo appeared quite sud- 

The new paradigm attributes evolution to periodic leaps by 
small groups. 3 This changing view is significant for at least two 
reasons: (1) It requires a mechanism for biological change more 
powerful than chance mutation, and (2) it opens us up to the 
possibility of rapid evolution in our own time, when the 
equilibrium of the species is punctuated by stress. Stress in 
modern society is experienced at the frontiers of our psycholog- 
ical rather than our geographical limits. Pioneering becomes an 
increasingly psychospiritual venture since our physical fron- 
tiers are all but exhausted, short of space exploration. 

Given what we are learning about the nature of profound 
change, transformation of the human species seems less and 
less improbable. 

Gould pointed out that Europeans in the nineteenth century 
favored the idea of gradualism, both in geology and evolution; 
it fit more comfortably with the dominant philosophy, which 
abhorred revolutions, even in nature. Our philosophies limit 

3 Science writer George Alexander described the new theory: "Where 
gradualism would compare evolution to a slow stately parade in which great 
numbers drift in and out, rather like New York's St. Patrick's Day parade, 
punctuated equilibrium envisions a series of block parties or street fairs. These 
localized events . . . stand basically alone." 

160 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

what we let ourselves see, he said. 4 We need pluralistic 
philosophies that free us to see the evidence from many points 
of view. 

If gradualism is more a product of Western thought than a 
fact of nature, then we should consider alternative 
philosophies of change to enlarge our realm of constrain- 
ing prejudices. In the Soviet Union, for example, scientists 
are trained with a very different philosophy of 
change. . . . They speak of the "transformation of quantity 
into quality." This may sound like mumbo jumbo, but it 
suggests that change occurs in large leaps following a slow 
accumulation of stresses that a system resists until it 
reaches the breaking point. Heat water and it eventually 
reaches a boiling point. Oppress the workers more and 
more and they suddenly break their chains. 

Evolution may be speeded up by certain genetic mech- 
anisms, according to new findings. Genes and segments of 
DNA have been shown to jump off and onto chromosomes in 
bacteria and certain other life forms, suggesting that the 
chromosomes may be modified continuously. Researchers 
have conjectured that such genetic rewriting may be expected 
in all forms of life. 

Certain segments of the DNA don't appear to contribute to 
the gene's usual product at all. The discovery of these interven- 
ing sequences, which appear as nonsense in the context of the 
genetic code, was called "horrifying" by one of the researchers, 
Walter Gilbert of Harvard. As the British journal New Scientist 
observed, "Our very concept of a gene is now in doubt." DNA 
might not be the consistent archive biologists had supposed, 
but rather a flux — "a dynamic system in which clusters of genes 
expand and contract, roving elements hop in and out." 5 

“Art critic and historian Rudolf Amheim pointed out that Europe seized upon 
the Second Law of Thermodynamics, when it was first formulated, to account 
for everything that seemed to be going wrong. "The sun was getting smaller, 
the earth colaer," and the generaldecline into entropy was also evident in the 
lower standards of army discipline, social decadence, falling birth rate, more 
insanity and tuberculosis, poorer vision. 

s The evolution that had been assumed to take thousands of years may well take 
only a generation, judging from the recent birth of a "siabon," the offspring of 
a male gibbon and a female siamang, two genetically dissimilar apes. Scientists 
now speculate that multiple rearrangements of genetic material rather than 
accumulated mutations may be the primary mechanisms by which species 

Liberating Knowledge 161 

Biochemist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, discoverer of Vitamin C 
and a Nobel laureate, proposed that a drive toward greater 
order may be a fundamental principle of nature. He calls this 
characteristic s yntropy — the opposite of entropy. Living matter 
has an inherent drive to perfect itself, he believes. Perhaps the 
cell periphery in a living organism actually feeds information 
back to the DNA at its core, changing the instructions. “After 
all," he said, “it was not known until a few years ago how the 
DNA issues its instructions to the cell in the first place. Some 
equally elegant process may alter those instructions." 

He rejected the idea that random mutations account for the 
sophistication in living matter. Biological reactions are chain 
reactions, and the molecules fit together more precisely than 
the cogwheels of a Swiss watch. How, then, could they have 
developed by accident? 

For if any one of the very specific “cogwheels" in these 
chains is changed, then the whole system must simply 
become inoperative. Saying that it can be improved by 
random mutation of one link sounds to me like saying that 
you could improve a Swiss watch by dropping it and thus 
bending one of its wheels or axles. To get a better watch, 
you must change all the wheels simultaneously to make a 
good fit again. 

Biologists have observed that there are many all-or-nothing 
"evolved" characteristics, such as the structure of birds for 
flight, that could not have occurred by random mutation and 
survival of the fittest. Half a wing would not have given any 
survival advantage. And wings would not have been of any use 
if the bone structure had not changed at the same time. 

Evolution involves true transformation, re-forming of the 
basic structure, and not mere adding on. 

Even in lower forms of life there are evolutionary achieve- 
ments so stunning they humble our largest theories. In African 
Genesis Robert Ardrey recounted an incident in Kenya when 
Louis Leakey pointed out to him what appeared to be a coral- 
colored flower made up of many small blossoms, like a 
hyacinth. On close inspection, each oblong "blossom" turned 
out to be the wing of an insect. These, said Leakey, were flattid 

Startled, Ardrey remarked that this was certainly a striking 
instance of protective imitation in nature. Leakey listened, 
looking amused, then explained that the coral flower "im- 

162 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

itated" by the flattid bug does not exist in nature. Furthermore, 
each batch of eggs laid by the female includes at least one flattid 
bug with green wings, not coral, and several with wings of 
in-between shades. 

I looked closely. At the tip of the insect flower was a single 
green bud. Behind it were half a dozen partially matured 
blossoms showing only strains of coral. Behind these on 
the twig crouched the full strength of flattid bug society, all 
with wings of purest coral to complete the colony's cre- 
ation and deceive the eyes of the hungriest of birds. 

There are moments when one's only response to evolu- 
tionary achievement can be a prickling sensation in the 
scalp. But still my speechlessness had not reached its most 
vacant, brain-numbed moment. Leakey shook the stick. 
The startled colony rose from its twig and filled the air with 

fluttering flattid bugs Then they returned to their twig. 

They alighted in no particular order and for an instant, the 
twig was alive with the little creatures climbing over each 
other's shoulders in what seemed to be random move- 
ment. But the movement was not random. 

Shortly the twig was still and one beheld again the 

How had the flattid bugs evolved so? How do they know their 
respective places, crawling over one another to get into posi- 
tion, like schoolchildren taking their places for a Christmas 

Colin Wilson suggested that there is not only communal con- 
sciousness among the bugs but that their very existence is due 
to a telepathic genetic connection. The flattid-bug community 
is, in a sense, a single individual, a single mind, whose genes 
were influenced by its collective need. 

Is it possible that we too are expressing a collective need, 
preparing for an evolutionary leap? Physicist John Platt has 
proposed that humankind is now experiencing an evolutionary 
shockfront and "may emerge very quickly into coordinated 
forms such as it has never known before . . . implicit in the 
biological material all along, as surely as the butterfly is implicit 
in the caterpillar." 


When the puzzles and paradoxes cry out for resolution, a new 

Liberating Knowledge 163 

paradigm is due. Fortunately, a deep and powerful new expla- 
nation for rapid evolution — biological, cultural, personal — is 

The theory of dissipative structures won the 1977 Nobel prize 
in chemistry for a Belgian physical chemist, Ilya Prigogine. This 
theory may prove as important a breakthrough to science in 
general as the theories of Einstein were to physics. It bridges 
the critical gap between biology and physics — the missing link 
between living systems and the apparently lifeless universe in 
which they arose. 

It explains "irreversible processes" in nature — the movement 
toward higher and higher orders of life. Prigogine, whose early 
interest was in history and the humanities, felt that science 
essentially ignored time. In Newton's universe time was 
considered only in regard to motion, the trajectory of a moving 
object. Yet, as Prigogine keeps saying, there are many aspects 
of time: decay, history, evolution, the creation of new forms, 
new ideas. Where in the old universe was there room for 
becoming ? 

Prigogine's theory resolves the fundamental riddle of how 
living things have been running uphill in a universe that is 
supposed to be running down. 

And the theory is immediately relevant to everyday life — to 
people. It offers a scientific model of transformation at every 
level. It explains the critical role of stress in transformation — 
and the impetus toward transformation inherent in nature! 

As we shall see, the principles revealed by the theory of 
dissipative structures are valuable in helping us understand 
profound change in psychology, learning, health, sociology, 
even politics and economics. The theory has been used by the 
United States Department of Transportation to predict traffic 
flow patterns. Scientists in many disciplines are employing it 
within their own specialties. The applications are infinite. 

The essence of the theory is not difficult to understand once 
we get past some semantic confusion. In describing nature, 
physical scientists often use ordinary words in their most literal 
sense — words for which we also have abstract meanings and 
strongly loaded emotional values. To understand Prigogine's 
theory we need to withhold traditional value judgment about 
words like "complexity," "dissipation," "coherence," "insta- 
bility," and "equilibrium." 

First, let's look again for a moment at the way in which 
nature is saturated with order and alive with pattern: flowers 
and insect colonies, cellular interactions, pulsar and quasar 

164 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

stars, the DNA code, biological clocks, the symmetrical ex- 
changes of energy in the collision of subatomic particles, mem- 
ory patterns in human minds. 

Next, remember that at a deep level of nature, nothing is 
fixed. These patterns are in constant motion. Even a rock is a 
dance of electrons. 

Some forms in nature are open systems, involved in a continu- 
ous exchange of energy with the environment. A seed, an 
ovum, and a living creature are all open systems. There are also 
human-made open systems. Prigogine gives the example of a 
town: It takes in energy from the surrounding area (power, raw 
materials), transforms it in factories, and returns energy to the 
environment. In closed systems, on the other hand — examples 
would be a rock, a cup of cold coffee, a log — there is no internal 
transformation of energy. 

Prigogine's term for open systems is dissipative structures. 
That is, their form or structure is maintained by a continuous 
dissipation (consumption) of energy. Much as water moves 
through a whirlpool and creates it at the same time, energy 
moves through and simultaneously forms the dissipative struc- 
ture. All living things and some nonliving systems (for in- 
stance, certain chemical reactions) are dissipative structures. A 
dissipative structure might well be described as a flowing whole- 
ness. It is highly organized but always in process. 

Now think about the meaning of the word complex: braided 
together. A complex structure is connected at many points and 
in many ways. The more complex a dissipative structure, the 
more energy is needed to maintain all those connections. 
Therefore it is more vulnerable to internal fluctuations. It is said 
to be "far from equilibrium." (In the physical sciences, equilib- 
rium does not mean healthy balance. It refers to ultimate ran- 
dom dispersal of energy. This equilibrium is a kind of death.) 

Because these connections can only be sustained by a flow of 
energy, the system is always in flux. Notice the paradox; the 
more coherent or intricately connected the structure, the more 
unstable it is. Increased coherence means increased instability! 
This very instability is the key to transformation . The dissipation of 
energy, as Prigogine demonstrated by his elegant mathematics, 
creates the potential for sudden reordering. 

The continuous movement of energy through the system re- 
sults in fluctuations; if they are minor, the system damps them 
and they do not alter its structural integrity. But if the fluctua- 
tions reach a critical size, they "perturb" the system. They in- 
crease the number of novel interactions within it. They shake it 

Liberating Knowledge 165 

up. The elements of the old pattern come into contact with each 
other in new ways and make new connections. The parts reor- 
ganize into a new whole. The system escapes into a higher order. 

The more complex or coherent a structure, the greater the 
next level of complexity. Each transformation makes the next 
one likelier. Each new level is even more integrated and con- 
nected than the one before, requiring a greater flow of energy 
for maintenance, and is therefore still less stable. To put it 
another way, flexibility begets flexibility. As Prigogine said, 
at higher levels of complexity, “the nature of the laws of nature 
changes." Life "eats" entropy. It has the potential to create 
new forms by allowing a shake-up of old forms. 

The elements of a dissipative structure cooperate to bring 
about this transformation of the whole. In such a shift, even 
molecules do not just interact with their immediate neighbors, 
Prigogine noted, "but also exhibit coherent behavior suited to 
the [needs of] the parent organism." At other levels, insects 
cooperate within their colonies, human beings within social 

One recently reported example of a new dissipative structure 
occurred when bacteria were placed experimentally in water, a 
medium in which this strain was unaccustomed to live. They 
began to interact in a highly organized way that enabled some 
of their number to survive. 

The Zhabotinskii reaction, a dissipative structure in chemis- 
try, caused something of a sensation among chemists in the 
1960s. In this dramatic example of nature creating patterns in 
both space and time, beautiful scroll-like forms unfold in a 
solution in a laboratory dish while the colors of the solution 
oscillate, changing from red to blue at regular intervals. Simi- 
larly, when certain oils are heated, a complex pattern of hexa- 
gons appears on the surface. The higher the heat, the more 
complex the pattern. These shifts are sudden and nonlinear. 
Multiple factors act on each other at once. 6 

At first the idea of creating new order by perturbation seems 
outrageous, like shaking up a box of random words and pour- 
ing out a sentence. Yet our traditional wisdom contains parallel 
ideas. We know that stress often forces sudden new solutions; 

6 Nonlinearity is not mysterious. As an example in everyday life, Prigogine rites 
heavy freeway traffic. In light traffic you can drive in a linear way, moving 
more or less as you choose with minimum slowing or lane changing. But if 
traffic thickens, "there is a new regime — competition between events." You 
are not only driving but being driven by the system. All the cars are now 
affecting each other. 

166 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

that crisis often alerts us to opportunity; that the creative pro- 
cess requires chaos before form emerges; that individuals are 
often strengthened by suffering and conflict; and that societies 
need a healthy airing of dissent. 

Human society offers an example of spontaneous self- 
organization. In a fairly dense society, as individuals become 
acquainted with others, each soon has more points of contact 
throughout the system via friends and friends of friends. The 
greater the instability and mobility of the society, the more interactions 
occur. This means greater potential for new connections, new 
organizations, diversification. Much as certain cells or organs in 
a body specialize during the course of evolution, people with 
common interests find one another and refine their specialty by 
mutual stimulation and exchange of ideas. 

The theory of dissipative structures offers a scientific model 
for the transformation of society by a dissident minority like the 
Aquarian Conspiracy. Prigogine has pointed out that the 
theory “violates the Taw of large numbers."' And yet, histo- 
rians have long noted that a creative minority can reorder a 
society. “The historical analogy is so obvious," Prigogine said. 
“Fluctuations, the behavior of a small group of people, can 
completely change the behavior of the group as a whole." 

Critical perturbations — “a dialectic between mass and 
minority" — can drive the society to “a new average." Societies 
have a limited power of integration, he said. Any time a per- 
turbation is greater than the society's ability to "damp" or re- 
press it, the social organization will (a) be destroyed, or (b) give 
way to a new order. 

Cultures are the most coherent and strangest of dissipative 
structures, Prigogine remarked. A critical number of advocates 
of change can create “a preferential direction" like the inner 
ordering of a crystal or magnet that organizes the whole. 

Because of their size and density, modern societies are sub- 
ject to large internal fluctuations. These can trigger shifts to a 
higher, richer order. In Prigogine's terms, they can become 
more pluralistic and diversified. 

We are transformed through interaction with the environ- 
ment. Science can now express as beautifully as the humanities 
the great and final paradox; our need to connect with the 
world (relationship) and to define our unique position in it 

Prigogine acknowledged a strong resemblance between this 
“science of becoming" and the vision of Eastern philosophies, 

Liberating Knowledge 167 

poets, mystics, and scientist-philosophers like Henri Bergson 
and Alfred North Whitehead. "A deep collective vision," he 
called it. He believes that the breakdown between the Two 
Cultures is not as Snow thought, that those in the humanities 
are not reading enough science and vice-versa. 

"One of the basic aspects of the humanities is time — the way 
things change. The laws of change. As long as we had only 
these naive views of time in physics and chemistry, science had 
little to say to art." Now we move from a world of quantities in 
science to a world of qualities — a world in which we can recog- 
nize ourselves, "a human physics." This worldview goes be- 
yond duality and traditional options into a rich, pluralistic cul- 
tural outlook, a recognition that higher-order life is not bound 
by "laws" but is capable of boundless innovation and alternate 

And this point of view has been expressed by many poets 

and writers, Tagore, Pasternak The fact that we can 

quote the truth of the scientists and the truth of the poets is 
in a sense already proof that we can in some sense bridge 
the problem between the Two Cultures and have come to 
the possibility of a new dialogue. 

We are approaching a new unity — a non-totalitarian sci- 
ence, in which we don't try to reduce one level to another. 


Long before Prigogine's theory was experimentally confirmed, 
its significance stunned an Israeli researcher, Aharon Katch- 
alsky. Katchalsky, also a physical chemist, had been studying 
dynamic patterns of brain function for many years. He 
was trying to understand how the brain integrates, what its 
rhythms and oscillations mean. 

The brain seemed a perfect example of a dissipative struc- 
ture. It is the ultimate in complexity. It is characterized by form 
and flow, interaction with the environment, abrupt shifts, sen- 
si tivitity to being perturbed. It demands the lion's share of the 
body's energy — with only 2 percent of the body weight, it con- 
sumes 20 percent of the available oxygen. The ups and downs 
of its energy influx are characteristic of the unstable dissipative 

In 1972 Katchalsky organized a spring work session of top 
brain scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology to in- 

168 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

troduce Prigogine's recently advanced theory to neuroscience. 
Katchalsky also presented his own cumulative evidence of 
dynamic organizing properties in nature and how they are af- 
fected by sudden, sharp fluctuations. 

The theory of dissipative structures might well tie dynamic 
brain patterns to transitions in the mind. Gestalt psychology, 
he commented, had long taken note of sudden transitions, 
jumps in perception. "The restructuring of an individual per- 
sonality may take a sudden form, as in flashes of understand- 
ing, learning a new skill, falling in love, or the conversion expe- 
rience of St. Paul." 

At the same session, Vernon Rowland of Case Western Re- 
serve University predicted that this approach to the brain 
would penetrate the old mystery: the difference that makes a 
whole more than the sum of its parts. Cooperation seemed to 
be a key; the more complex a system, the greater its potential 
for self- transcendence. 

Although the theory was new to most participants, they 
quickly agreed that further study and synthesis should be un- 
dertaken. A whole new field seemed likely to emerge. Perhaps 
the idea of dissipative structures would be the key to further 
progress in brain research, which seemed urgently in need of 
something other than the current linear approach. It was de- 
cided that Katchalsky would chair future sessions, guide the 
work, and synthesize the results. 

Two weeks later Katchalsky was slain by terrorists' bullets in 
the Lod Airport at Tel Aviv. 

He had been hot on the trail of a truly promising connection. 
Consider the theory of dissipative structures as it may apply to 
the human brain and consciousness. It helps explain the trans- 
formative power of psychotechnologies — why they can break 
conditioning that is firmly resistant to change in ordinary states 
of consciousness. 

Brainwaves reflect fluctuations of energy. Groups of neurons 
are experiencing enough electrical activity to show up on the 
EEG graph. In normal consciousness, small and rapid brain- 
waves (beta rhythm) dominate the EEG pattern in most people. 
We are more attentive to the external world than to inner expe- 
rience in the beta state. Meditation, reverie, relaxation, and 
other assorted psychotechnologies tend to increase the slower, 
larger brainwaves known as alpha and theta. Inward attention, 
in other words, generates a larger fluctuation in the brain. In 
altered states of consciousness, fluctuations may reach a critical level, 

Liberating Knowledge 169 

large enough to provoke the shift into a higher level of organization. 

Memories, including deeply entrenched patterns of behavior 
and thought, are dissipative structures. They are patterns or 
forms stored in the brain. Remember that small fluctuations in a 
dissipative structure are suppressed by the existing form; they 
have no lasting effect. But larger fluctuations of energy can- 
not be contained in the old structure. They set off ripples 
throughout the system, creating sudden new connections. 
Thus, old patterns are likeliest to change when maximally per- 
turbed or shaken — activated in states of consciousness in which 
there is significant energy flow. 

Prigogine's theory helps to account for the dramatic effects 
sometimes seen in meditation, hypnosis, or guided imagery: 
the sudden relief of a lifelong phobia or ailment. An individual 
reliving a traumatic incident in a state of highly-focused inward 
attention perturbs the pattern of that specific old memory. This 
triggers a reorganization — a new dissipative structure. 

The old pattern is broken. 

The "felt shift" in Eugene Gendlin's focusing process, 
characterized by a sudden phase shift in the EEG's alpha har- 
monics, is probably the appearance of a new knowing — a new 
dissipative structure. Similar phase shifts in meditative states 
have been associated with subjective reports of insight. 

A stuck thought pattern, an old paradigm, a compulsive be- 
havior, a knee-jerk response ... all of these are dissipative 
structures, capable of sudden enlargement. The new structure 
is like a larger paradigm. And the perturbation that provokes 
the new order in a dissipative structure is analogous to the 
crisis that helps force the shift to a new paradigm. 

Again and again, the mandates of nature, repeated at all 

Molecules and stars, brainwaves and concepts, individuals 
and societies — all have the potential for transformation. 

Transformation, like a vehicle on a downward incline, 
gathers momentum as it goes. 

All wholes transcend their parts by virtue of internal coher- 
ence, cooperation, openness to input. 

The higher on the evolutionary scale, the more freedom to 
reorganize. An ant lives out a destiny; a human being shapes 

Evolution is a continuous breaking and forming to make 
new, richer wholes. Even our genetic material is in flux. 

If we try to live as closed systems, we are doomed to regress. 

170 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

If we enlarge our awareness, admit new information, and take 
advantage of the brain's brilliant capacity to integrate and rec- 
oncile, we can leap forward. 


To fully realize the extent to which nature's complexity tran- 
scends ordinary logic, one need only visit the never-never land 
of quantum physics or the parapsychology laboratories. In both 
theoretical physics and parapsychology, the Greek letter psi 
designates the unknown. 

Jeremy Bernstein, a professor of physics at the Stevens Insti- 
tute of Technology, said that he sometimes has the fantasy that 
it is 1905 and he is a professor of physics at the University of 

The phone rings and a person I have never heard of iden- 
tifies himself as a patent examiner in the Swiss National 
Patent Office. He says that he has heard that I give lectures 
on electromagnetic theory and that he has developed some 
ideas which might interest me. "What sort of ideas?" I ask 
a bit superciliously. 

He begins discussing some crazy- sounding notions 
about space and time. Rulers contract when they are set in 
motion; a clock on the equator goes at a slower rate than 
the identical clock when it is placed at the North Pole; the 
mass of an electron increases with its velocity; whether or 
not two events are simultaneous depends on the frame of 
reference of the observer, and so on. How would I have 

Well, a great many of Albert Einstein's contemporaries 
would have hung up the phone. After all, in 1905 he didn't 
even have an academic job! 

But a careful reading of his papers would have shown that 
they connected to what was known, Bernstein said. "A really 
novel genuine theory may appear at first sight to be quite crazy, 
but if it is any good it has this aspect of connectivity." It is not 
suspended in mid-air, and that distinguishes it from the purely 

Modern physics, letting itself out further and further into the 
unknown on that slender thread of connection, has revealed a 

Liberating Knowledge 171 

reality that is very fluid, like the surrealistic melted clocks of 
Salvador Dali. Matter has only "a tendency to exist." There are 
no things, only connections. Only relationships. If matter col- 
lides, its energy is redistributed among other particles in a 
kaleidoscope of life and death, like Shiva's dance in Hindu 

In place of a real and solid world, theoretical physics offers us 
a flickering web of events, relationships, potentialities. Parti- 
cles make sudden transitions, "quantum leaps," behaving at 
times like units, yet mysteriously wavelike on other occasions. 
One current theory sees the universe as a "scattering matrix" 
in which there are no particles at all but only relationships 
between events. 

At its primary level the universe seems to be paradoxically 
whole and undifferentiated, a seamlessness that somehow gen- 
erates the intricate tapestry of our experience, a reality we can- 
not possibly visualize. 

But mathematics can go where common sense cannot. Just as 
Prigogine formulated the mathematics to prove a strange, 
self- organizing, transcendent force in nature, so another 
mathematical proof threatens the underpinnings of post- 
Einsteinian physics, which was already beyond imagining for 
most of us. 

This proof — Bell's theorem — was proposed in 1964 by J. S. 
Bell, a physicist working in Switzerland, and first confirmed 
experimentally in 1972. Physicist Henry Stapp, in a 1975 federal 
report, called it "the most profound discovery of science." 

Bell's theorem was foreshadowed in 1935 when Einstein and 
two associates proposed an experiment they believed would 
demonstrate the fallacy of quantum logic, which Einstein found 
too uncertain for comfort. If the theory of quantum mechanics 
was correct, they said, then a change in the spin of one particle 
in a two-particle system would affect its twin simultaneously, 
even if the two had been widely separated in the meantime. 

On the surface, the idea appeared absurd. How could two 
separated particles be thus connected? This challenge, later 
known as the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen effect, did not refute 
quantum theory, as was intended. Instead it called attention to 
the bizarre nature of the subatomic world. 

Which leads us to Bell's amazing theorem. Experiments 
show that if paired particles (which are identical twins in their 
polarity) fly apart and the polarity of one is changed by an 
experimenter, the other changes instantaneously . They remain 
mysteriously connected. 

172 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

Bernard d'Espagnet, a physicist at the University of Paris, 
wrote in 1979, "The violation of Einstein's assumptions seems 
to imply that in some sense all these objects constitute an indi- 
visible whole." This effect is probably not caused by a transfer 
of information, physicist Nick Herbert said, at least not in the 
usual sense. Rather it is "a simple consequence of the oneness 
of apparently separate objects ... a quantum loophole through 
which physics admits not merely the possibility but the neces- 
sity of the mystic's unitary vision: 'We are all one.'" 

Thoughtful physicists are struck by the curious parallels be- 
tween their findings and ancient mystical descriptions of real- 
ity. These similarities were pointed out in The Tao of Physics by 
Fritjof Capra and The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav. 
Capra compared the organic, unified, and spiritual vision of 
reality in Eastern philosophy to the emerging paradigm of 
physics. Zukav's book takes its title from the Chinese expres- 
sion for physics, wu li, which he translates as "patterns of 
organic energy." 

"Bell's theorem not only suggests that the world is quite 
different than it seems," Zukav said, "it demands it. There is no 
question about it. Something very exciting is happening. 
Physicists have 'proved' rationally that our rational ideas about 
the world in which we live are profoundly deficient." 

He notes the view of Geoffrey Chew, chairman of the 
physics department at the University of California at Berkeley: 
"Our current struggle [with advanced physics] may thus be 
only a foretaste of a completely new form of human intellectual 
endeavor, one that will not only lie outside physics but will not 
even be described as 'scientific.'" 

In one sense, Zukav said, we may be approaching "the end 
of science." Even as we continue to seek understanding, we are 
learning to accept the limits of our reductionist methods. Only 
direct experience can give a sense of this nonlocal universe, this 
realm of connectedness. Enlarged awareness — as in medita- 
tion — may carry us past limits of our logic to more complete 
knowledge. The end of conventional science may mean "the 
coming of Western civilization, in its own time and in its own 
way, into the higher dimensions of human experience." 

Many great physicists over the years have become deeply 
absorbed in the role of the mind in constructing reality. 
Schrodinger, for instance, remarked that exploring the rela- 
tionship between brain and mind is the only important task of 
science. He once quoted the Persian mystic Aziz Nasafi: 

Liberating Knowledge 173 

The spiritual world is one single spirit who stands like unto 
a light behind the bodily world and who, when any single 
creature comes into being, shines through it as through a 
window. According to the kind and size of the window, 
less or more light enters the world. 

Western thinking is still trying to objectify everything, 
Schrodinger said. "It is in need of blood transfusion from East- 
ern thought." A Hindu sutra proclaims, "There is nothing in 
the moving world but mind itself," a view echoed by physicist 
John Wheeler: "May the universe in some strange sense be 
'brought into being' by the vital act of participation?" 

Niels Bohr, to symbolize his theory of complementarity, de- 
signed a coat of arms featuring the yin-yang symbol. The Taoist 
saying, "The real is empty, and the empty is real," is not unlike 
physicist Paul Dirac's statement, "All matter is created out of 
some imperceptible substratum . . . nothingness, unimaginable 
and undetectible. But it is a peculiar form of nothingness out of 
which all matter is created." 

The ultimate psi in physics remains unknowable. Reviewing 
the big bang theory of the origins of the universe, Robert Jas- 
trow, an astrophysicist who heads NASA's Goddard Institute 
for Space Studies, pointed out that it is not exactly an explana- 
tion of cause. "If a scientist really examines the implications, he 
would be traumatized. As usual, when the mind is faced with 
trauma, it reacts by ignoring the implications — in science this is 
called 'refusing to speculate' — or by trivializing the origin of the 
world by calling it the Big Bang, as if the universe were merely 
a firecracker." 

Consider the enormousness of the problem: Science has 
proved that the universe exploded into being at a certain 
moment. It asks, what cause produced this effect? Who or 
what put the matter and energy into the universe? Was the 
universe created out of nothing or was it gathered together 
out of pre-existing materials? And science cannot answer 
these questions. 

... It is not a matter of another year, another decade of 
work, another measurement, or another theory. At this 
moment it seems as though science will never be able to 
raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. 

Nature has no simple level, Prigogine pointed out. The 

274 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

nearer we try to approach it, the greater the complexity we 
confront. In this rich, creative universe, the supposed laws of 
strict causality are almost caricatures of the true nature of 
change. There is "a more subtle form of reality, one that in- 
volves both laws and games, time and eternity Instead of 

the classical description of the world as an automaton, we 
return to the ancient Greek paradigm of the world as a work 
of art.” 

He and his associates in Brussels are now working on a con- 
cept he believes more important than the theory of dissipative 
structures — a new kind of uncertainty theory that applies to 
the everyday level of reality, not just in the realm of the very 
small and the very large. Predictable processes are altered by 
the unpredictable. Here, as in modern science in general, the 
key discoveries come as a surprise. "The impossible becomes 

Generating our world of apparent concreteness is a realm of 
unbroken wholeness; from that dimension where there is only 
potential we extract meaning — we sense, perceive, measure. 

"Every phenomenon is unexpected," said Eugene Wigner, 
"and most unlikely until it has been discovered. And some of 
them remain unreasonable for a long time after they have been 

Psychic phenomena— psi — are probably no less natural than 
the phenomena of subatomic physics but they are notoriously 
less predictable. And they are more threatening to many 
people. After all, we can disregard the eerie world of modern 
physics if we wish. It is one thing if an astrophysicist like 
Stephen Hawking of Cambridge University speaks of black 
holes "where space- time becomes so twisted up that it just 
comes to an end and all known laws of physics break down." 
We don't expect to encounter a black hole. 

But it is quite another matter to acknowledge the unknown 
dimension in everyday life: the evidence for remote viewing 
(seeing at a distance, classically known as clairvoyance), telep- 
athy (transfer of mental events), precognition (awareness of 
events in the future), psychokinesis (interaction of mind and 
matter), and synchronicity (meaningful coincidence, a compos- 
ite of the other phenomena). 

Except for synchronicity, these phenomena can be subjected 
to experimentation. Despite the unnaturalness of the labora- 
tory setting, the importance of mental state, and the notorious 
elusiveness of psi, there is a mounting body of evidence that 

Liberating Knowledge 175 

the phenomena irrefutably occur and that they can be facili- 
tated by the psychotechnologies. 

Human intention has been shown to interact with matter at a 
distance, affecting the particles in a cloud chamber, crystals, 
the rate of radioactive decay. An intention to "heal" has been 
demonstrated to alter enzymes, hemoglobin values, and the 
hydrogen-oxygen bond in water. The mode of transmission is 
unknown, just as there is a missing link between intention and 
biofeedback control and between suggestion and the brain 
chemistry involved in the placebo effect. Every human inten- 
tion that results in physical action is, in effect, mind over mat- 
ter. How consciousness and the physical world interact 
remains a mystery. 

Once primarily the province of psychologists and psychia- 
trists, parapsychology has attracted a number of physicists in 
recent years . 7 Even so, theories on the mechanism of psi are 
sketchy, and most theories try instead to understand what 
helps or hinders the phenomena. 

A recent survey of more than seven hundred parapsycholog- 
ical references reviewed a dizzying variety of approaches. 
Among the factors studied: effects of time and distance, forced 
choice, impulsivity, motivation, interpersonal factors, the ex- 
perimenter effect, alterations of consciousness (dreams, hyp- 
nosis, biofeedback, drugs), brain correlates (density of alpha 
brainwaves, hemispheric specialization, brain injuries), per- 
sonality profiles of low and high scorers (neuroticism, extraver- 
sion, creativity, psychosis), sex differences, age differences, 
birth order, belief, learning, decline effects, short-circuiting the 
ego, body language, responses in the autonomic nervous sys- 

7 Historically, many great scientists have been drawn to psi. Among the first 
officers of the Society for Psychical Research in Britain were three Nobel 
laureates: the discoverer of the electron, J.J. Thompson; the discoverer of 
argon. Lord Rayleigh (J. W. Strutt); and Charles Richet. William James, usually 
described as the father of American psychology, co-founded the American 
Society for Psychical Research. Among the Nobel laureates specifically in- 
terested in psi were Alexis Carrel, Max Planck, the Curies, Schrodinger, 
Charles Sherrington, and Einstein (who wrote the foreword for Upton 
Sinclair's book on telepathy, Mental Radio). Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli, a 
Nobel physicist, coautnored a theory about synchronicity. Pierre Janet, a great 
French scientist of the nineteenth century, actively investigated psi. Luther 
Burbank and Thomas Edison had a strong interest in the field. 

Aquarian Conspirators surveyed (see Appendix) reported an extremely high 
level of belief in psi. Generally they had gone through a chronology of interest: 
first fascination, fear, or both; then avoidance of the phenomena as a distrac- 
tion from the transformative process itself; and, finally, acceptance of them as 
natural, plausible, an extension of human creative powers and evidence of the 
essential unity of all life. 

176 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

tem (changes in blood volume in capillaries, for example), and 
the effects of strobe lights. 

Mind is invisible circuitry, tying us together. “So think as if 
your every thought were to be etched in fire upon the sky for all 
and everything to see," says the Book of Mirdad, "for so, in 
truth, it is." Psi is not a parlor game. The phenomena remind 
us that we have access to a source of transcendent knowing, a 
domain not limited by time and space. 


In all of these scientific breakthroughs we discover qualitative 
shifts: transformations rather than gradual change. There are 
jumps — "missing links." For example: 

The sudden shifts of brain activity observed in altered states 
of consciousness. 

The gap between intention and physiological change in 
biofeedback . . . and between suggestion and analgesia in the 
placebo effect. 

The suddenness of intuition — a jump to a solution with no 
clear logical steps in between. The right brain's gestalts, sud- 
den wholes. 

The "jumping genes" observed by molecular biologists. 
Mutations — transformations within the genetic code. The sud- 
den appearances of new life forms in the course of evolution. 

Quantum jumps in physics. 

The transfer of information in psychic phenomena. 

The shift of a dissipative structure to a higher order. 

In our lives and in our cultural institutions we have been 
poking at qualities with tools designed to detect quantities. By 
what yardstick do you measure a shadow, a candle flame? 
What does an intelligence test measure? Where in the medical 
armamentarium is the will to live? How big is an intention? 
How heavy is grief, how deep is love? 

We cannot quantify relationships, connectedness, transfor- 
mation. Nothing in the scientific method can cope with the 
richness and complexity of qualitative shifts. In a transforma- 
tive universe, history is instructive, but not necessarily predic- 
tive. As individuals, we are foolish if we set limits on our own 
or other people's potential based on past and present knowl- 
edge, including old science. 

For those willing to listen, science itself is telling thrilling, 
open-ended mystery stories about a world rich beyond our 

Liberating Knowledge 177 

imagining. Just as one who makes a clearing in the forest is 
increasing the periphery of contact with the unknown, we are 
only becoming wiser about the scope of the territory we have 
yet to explore. 


Some scientific discoveries are premature, molecular geneticist 
Gunther Stent observed in 1972. These intuitive or accidental 
discoveries are repressed or ignored until they can be con- 
nected to existing data. In effect, they await a context in which 
they make sense. 

Gregor Mendel's discovery of the gene, Michael Polanyi's 
absorption theory in physics, and Oswald Avery's identifica- 
tion of DNA as the basic hereditary substance were ignored for 
years, even decades. Stent suggested that the existence of 
psychic phenomena was a similarly premature discovery, one 
that would not be appreciated by science, regardless of the 
data, until a conceptual framework had been established. 

Recently a Stanford neuroscientist, Karl Pribram, proposed 
an all-encompassing paradigm that marries brain research to 
theoretical physics; it accounts for normal perception and si- 
multaneously takes the "paranormal" and transcendental ex- 
periences out of the supernatural by demonstrating that they 
are part of nature. 

The paradoxical sayings of mystics suddenly make sense in 
the radical reorientation of this "holographic theory." Not that 
Pribram was the least bit interested in giving credence to vi- 
sionary insights. He was only trying to make sense of the data 
generated from his laboratory at Stanford, where brain pro- 
cesses in higher mammals, especially primates, have been 
rigorously studied. 

Early in his career as a brain surgeon, Pribram worked under 
the famous Karl Lashley, who searched for thirty years for the 
elusive "engram" — the site and substance of memory. Lashley 
trained experimental animals, then selectively damaged por- 
tions of their brains, assuming that at some point he would 
scoop out the locus of what they had learned. Removing parts 
of the brain worsened their performance somewhat, but short 
of lethal brain damage, it was impossible to eradicate what they 
had been taught. 

At one point Lashley said facetiously that his research 
proved that learning was not possible. Pribram participated in 

178 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

writing up Lashley's monumental research, and he was 
steeped in the mystery of the missing engram. How could 
memory be stored not in any one part of the brain but distrib- 
uted throughout? 

Later, when Pribram went to the Center for Studies in the 
Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, 8 he was still deeply troubled 
by the mystery that had drawn him into brain research: How 
do we remember? In the mid-sixties, he read a Scientific Ameri- 
can article describing the first construction of a hologram, a 
kind of three-dimensional “picture" produced by lensless 
photography. Dennis Gabor invented holography in principle 
in 1947, a discovery that later earned him a Nobel prize, but 
the construction of a hologram had to await the invention of 
the laser. 

The hologram is one of the truly remarkable inventions of 
modern physics— eerie, indeed, when seen for the first time. 
Its ghostlike image can be viewed from various angles, and it 
appears to be suspended in space. Its principle is well de- 
scribed by biologist Lyall Watson: 

If you drop a pebble into a pond, it will produce a series of 
regular waves that travel outward in concentric circles. 
Drop two identical pebbles into the pond at different 
points and you will get two sets of similar waves that move 
towards each other. Where the waves meet, they will inter- 
fere. If the crest of one hits the crest of the other, they will 
work together and produce a reinforced wave of twice the 
normal height. If the crest of one coincides with the trough 
of another, they will cancel each other out and produce an 
isolated patch of calm water. In fact, all possible combina- 
tions of the two occur, and the final result is a complex 
arrangement of ripples known as an interference pattern. 

Light waves behave in exactly the same way. The purest 
kind of light available to us is that produced by a laser, 
which sends out a beam in which all the waves are of one 
frequency, like those made by an ideal pebble in a perfect 
pond. When two laser beams touch, they produce an inter- 
ference pattern of light and dark ripples that can be re- 
corded on a photographic plate. And if one of the beams, 
instead of coming directly from the laser, is reflected first 
off an object such as a human face, the resulting pattern 

8 He worked on his landmark book, Languages of the Brain , in an office next door 
to Thomas Kuhn, who was writing The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 

Liberating Knowledge 179 

will be very complex indeed, but it can still be recorded. 

The record will be a hologram of the face. 

Light falls onto the photographic plate from two sources: 
from the object itself and from a reference beam, the light de- 
flected by a mirror from the object onto the plate. The appar- 
ently meaningless swirls on the plate do not resemble the orig- 
inal object, but the image can be reconstituted by a coherent 
light source like a laser beam. The result is a 3-D likeness pro- 
jected into space, at a distance from the plate. 

If the hologram is broken, any piece of it will reconstruct the entire 

Pribram saw the hologram as an exciting model for how the 
brain might store memory. 9 If memory is distributed rather 
than localized, perhaps it is holographic. Maybe the brain deals 
in interactions, interpreting bioelectric frequencies throughout 
the brain. 

In 1966 he published his first paper proposing a connection. 
Over the next several years he and other researchers uncovered 
what appeared to be the brain's calculative strategies for know- 
ing, for sensing. It appears that in order to see, hear, smell, 
taste, and so on, the brain performs complex calculations on 
the frequencies of the data it receives. Hardness or redness or 
the smell of ammonia are only frequencies when the brain en- 
counters them. These mathematical processes have little common- 
sense relationship to the real world as we perceive it. 

Neuroanatomist Paul Pietsch said, "The abstract principles of 
the hologram may explain the brain's most elusive properties." 
The diffuse hologram makes no more common sense than the 
brain. The whole code exists at every point in the medium. 

"Stored mind is not a thing. It is abstract relationships In 

the sense of ratios, angles, square roots, mind is a mathematic. 
No wonder it's hard to fathom." 

Pribram suggested that the intricate mathematics might be 
performed via slow waves known to move along a network of 
fine fibers on the nerve cells. The brain may decode its stored 
memory traces the way a projected hologram decodes or de- 
blurs its original image. The extraordinary efficiency of the 
holographic principle makes it attractive, too. Because the pat- 

9 Among those researchers who first suggested a tie between phenomena of 
consciousness and the holographic principle were Dennis Gabor, discoverer of 
holography; Ula Belas of Bell Telephone Laboratories; Dennis and Terence 
McKenna; physicists William Tiller and Evan Harris; biologist Lyall Watson; 
and inventors Itzhak Bentov and Eugene Dolgoff. 

180 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

tern on a holographic plate has no space- time dimension, bil- 
lions of bits of information can be stored in a tiny space — just as 
billions of bits are obviously stored in the brain. 

But in 1970 or 1971, a distressing and ultimate question began 
troubling Pribram. If the brain indeed knows by putting to- 
gether holograms — by mathematically transforming frequen- 
cies from “out there" — who in the brain is interpreting the 

This is an old and nagging question. Philosophers since the 
Greeks have speculated about the "ghost in the machine," the 
"little man inside the little man" and so on. Where is the/ — the 
entity that uses the brain? 

Who does the actual knowing? Or, as Saint Francis of Assisi 
once put it, " What we are looking for is what is looking.” 

Lecturing one night at a symposium in Minnesota, Pribram 
mused that the answer might lie in the realm of gestalt 
psychology, a theory that maintains that what we perceive "out 
there" is the same as — isomorphic with — brain processes. 

Suddenly he blurted out, "Maybe the world is a hologram!" 

He stopped, a little taken aback by the implications of what 
he had said. Were the members of the audience holograms — 
representations of frequencies, interpreted by his brain and by 
one another's brains? If the nature of reality is itself holo- 
graphic, and the brain operates holographically, then the world 
is indeed, as the Eastern religions have said, maya: a magic 
show. Its concreteness is an illusion. 

Soon afterward he spent a week with his son, a physicist, 
discussing his ideas and searching for possible answers in 
physics. His son mentioned that David Bohm, a protege of 
Einstein, had been thinking along similar lines. A few days 
later, Pribram read copies of Bohm's key papers urging a new 
order in physics. Pribram was electrified. Bohm was describing a 
holographic universe. 

What appears to be a stable, tangible, visible, audible world, 
said Bohm, is an illusion. It is dynamic and kaleidoscopic — not 
really "there." What we normally see is the explicate, or un- 
folded, order of things, rather like watching a movie. But there 
is an underlying order that is father to this second-generation 
reality. He called the other order implicate, or enfolded. The 
enfolded order harbors our reality, much as the DNA in the 
nucleus of the cell harbors potential life and directs the nature 
of its unfolding. 

Bohm describes an insoluble ink droplet in glycerine. If the 
fluid is stirred slowly by a mechanical device so that there is no 

Liberating Knowledge 181 

diffusion, the droplet is eventually drawn into a fine thread 
that is distributed throughout the whole system in such a way 
that it is no longer even visible to the eye. If the mechanical 
device is then reversed, the thread will slowly gather together 
until it suddenly coalesces again into a visible droplet. 

Before this coalescence takes place, the droplet can be said to 
be “folded into" the viscous fluid, while afterward it is un- 
folded again. 

Next imagine that several droplets have been stirred into the 
fluid a different number of times and in different positions. If 
the ink drops are stirred continuously and fast enough, it will 
appear that a single permanently existing ink drop is continu- 
ously moving across the fluid. There is no such object. Other 
examples: a row of electric lights in a commercial sign that 
flashes off and on to give the impression of a sweeping arrow, 
or an animated cartoon, giving the illusion of continuous 

Just so, all apparent substance and movement are illusory. 
They emerge from another, more primary order of the uni- 
verse. Bohm calls this phenomenon the holomovement. 

Ever since Galileo, he says, we have been looking at nature 
through lenses; our very act of objectifying, as in an electron 
microscope, alters that which we hope to see. We want to find 
its edges, to make it sit still for a moment, when its true nature 
is in another order of reality, another dimension, where there 
are no things. It is as if we are bringing the “observed" into 
focus, as you would bring a picture into resolution, but the blur 
is a more accurate representation. The blur itself is the basic 

It occurred to Pribram that the brain may focus reality in a 
lenslike way, by its mathematical strategies. These mathemati- 
cal transforms make objects out of frequencies. They make the 
blurred potential into sound and color and touch and smell and 

“Maybe reality isn't what we see with our eyes," Pribram 
says. "If we didn't have that lens — the mathematics performed 
by our brain — maybe we would know a world organized in the 
frequency domain. No space, no time — just events. Can reality 
be read out of that domain?" 

He suggested that transcendental experiences — mystical 
states — may allow us occasional direct access to that realm. 
Certainly, subjective reports from such states often sound like 
descriptions of quantum reality, a coincidence that has led sev- 
eral physicists to speculate similarly. Bypassing our normal, 

182 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

constricting perceptual mode — what Aldous Huxley called the 
reducing valve — we may be attuned to the source or matrix of 

And the brain's neural interference patterns, its mathemati- 
cal processes, may be identical to the primary state of the uni- 
verse. That is to say, our mental processes are, in effect, made 
of the same stuff as the organizing principle. Physicists and 
astronomers had remarked at times that the real nature of the 
universe is immaterial but orderly. Einstein professed mystical 
awe in the face of this harmony. Astronomer James Jeans said 
that the universe is more like a great thought than a great 
machine, and astronomer Arthur Eddington said, “The stuff of 
the universe is mind-stuff." More recently, cyberneticist David 
Foster described “an intelligent universe" whose apparent con- 
creteness is generated by — in effect — cosmic data from an un- 
knowable, organized source. 

In a nutshell, the holographic supertheory says that our brains 
mathematically construct “hard” reality by interpreting frequencies 
from a dimension transcending time and space. The brain is a holo- 
gram, interpreting a holographic universe. 

We are indeed participants in reality, observers who affect 
what we observe. 

In this framework, psychic phenomena are only by-products 
of the simultaneous-every where matrix. Individual brains are 
bits of the greater hologram. They have access under certain 
circumstances to all the information in the total cybernetic sys- 
tem. Synchronicity — the web of coincidence that seems to have 
some higher purpose or connectedness — also fits in with the 
holographic model. Such meaningful coincidences derive from 
the purposeful, patterned, organizing nature of the matrix. 
Psychokinesis, mind affecting matter, may be a natural result 
of interaction at the primary level. The holographic model 
resolves one long-standing riddle of psi: the inability of in- 
strumentation to track the apparent energy transfer in telep- 
athy, healing, clairvoyance. If these events occur in a dimen- 
sion transcending time and space, there is no need for energy 
to travel from here to there. As one researcher put it, “There 
isn't any there.” 

For years those interested in phenomena of the human mind 
had predicted that a breakthrough theory would emerge; that it 
would draw on mathematics to establish the supernatural as 
part of nature. 

The holographic model is such an integral theory catching all 

Liberating Knowledge 183 

the wildlife of science and spirit. It may well be the paradoxical, 
borderless paradigm that our science had been crying for. 

Its explanatory power enriches and enlarges many disci- 
plines, making sense of old phenomena and raising urgent new 
questions. Implicit in the theory is the assumption that har- 
monious, coherent states of consciousness are more nearly at- 
tuned to the primary level of reality, a dimension of order and 
harmony. Such attunement would be hampered by anger, anx- 
iety, and fear and eased by love and empathy. There are impli- 
cations for learning, environments, families, the arts, religion 
and philosophy, healing and self-healing. What fragments us? 
What makes us whole? 

Those descriptions of a sense of flow, of cooperating with the 
universe — in the creative process, in extraordinary athletic per- 
formances, and sometimes in everyday life — do they signify 
our union with the source? 

The experiences reported so often on the Aquarian Conspir- 
acy questionnaires, the hours and even months of “grace/' 
when it seemed one was cooperating with the life source 
itself — were these instances of being in harmony with the pri- 
mary level of reality? Millions are experimenting with the 
psychotechnologies. Are they creating a more coherent, reso- 
nant society, feeding order into the great social hologram like 
seed crystals? Perhaps this is the mysterious process of collec- 
tive evolution. 

The holographic model also helps explain the strange power 
of the image — why events are affected by what we imagine, 
what we visualize. An image held in a transcendental state may 
be made real. 

Keith Floyd, a psychologist at Virginia Intermont College, 
said of the holographic possibility, “Contrary to what everyone 
knows is so, it may not be the brain that produces con- 
sciousness — but rather, consciousness that creates the appear- 
ance of the brain — matter, space, time, and everything else we 
are pleased to interpret as the physical universe." 

Access to a domain transcending time and space might also 
account for the ancient intuitions about the nature of reality. 
Pribram points out that Leibniz, the seventeenth-century 
philosopher and mathematician, had postulated a universe of 
monads — units that incorporate the information of the whole. 
Interestingly, Leibniz discovered the integral calculus that 
made the invention of holography possible. He maintained that 
the exquisitely orderly behavior of light — also crucial to holog- 

184 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

raphy — indicated an underlying radical, patterned order of 

Ancient mystics also correctly described the function of the 
pineal gland centuries before science could confirm it. "How 
did ideas like this arise centuries before we had the tools to 
understand them?" Pribram asked. "Maybe in the holographic 
state — the frequency domain — four thousand years ago is the 
same as tomorrow." 

Similarly, Bergson had said in 1907 that the ultimate reality is 
an underlying web of connection and that the brain screens out 
the larger reality. In 1929, Whitehead described nature as a 
great expanding nexus of occurrences beyond sense percep- 
tion. We only imagine that matter and mind are different, 
when, in fact, they are interlocking. 

Bergson maintained that artists, like mystics, have access to 
the elan vital, the underlying creative impulse. T. S. Eliot's 
poems are full of holographic images: "The still point of the 
turning world" that is neither flesh nor fleshless, neither arrest 
nor movement. "And do not call it fixity, where past and future 
are gathered. Except for the point, the still point/There would 
be no dance, and there is only the dance." 

The German mystic Meister Eckhart had said that "God be- 
comes and disbecomes." Rumi, the Sufi mystic, said, "Men's 
minds perceive second causes, but only prophets perceive the 
action of the First Cause." 

Emerson suggested that we see "mediately, not directly," 
that we are colored and distorted lenses. Perhaps our "subject 
lenses" have a creative power, he said, and there are no real 
objects outside ourselves in the universe: the play and play- 
ground of all history may be only radiations from ourselves. A 
booklet published by the Theosophical Society in the 1930s 
described reality as a living matrix, "every mathematical point 
of which contains the potentialities of the whole. . . ." 

Teilhard believed that human consciousness can return to 
the point "where the roots of matter disappear from view." 
Reality has a "within," he said, as well as a "without." In the 
Don Juan books, Carlos Castaneda describes two dimensions 
that sound like the holographic primary and secondary dimen- 
sions: the powerful nagual, an indescribable void that contains 
everything, and the tonal, a reflection of that indescribable un- 
known filled with order. 

In The Man Who Gave Thunder to the Earth, Nancy Wood's 
retelling of the Taos stories: 

Liberating Knowledge 185 

The Second World is the true center of life, the Old Man 
said. It is where anything can happen, for all things are 

possible there. It is a world of perhaps and why not 

One Way is always there and One Hand is always there. 

. . . The Second World is a world of untying the knot . . . the 

world of having no name, no address It is where there 

are no answers even though new questions are always 

Arthur Koestler described "reality of the third order," which 
contains phenomena that cannot be apprehended or explained 
on either a sensory or a conceptual level, "and yet occasionally 
invade them [these levels] like spiritual meteors piercing the 
primitive's vaulted sky." 

In an ancient sutra of Patanjali, knowledge of "the subtle, the 
hidden, and the distant" is said to arise by looking with the 
pravritti — a Sanskrit term meaning "before the wave." This de- 
scription parallels the idea of an apparently concrete world 
generated by interference patterns, by waves. 

And, this extraordinary ancient description of a holographic 
reality is found in a Hindu sutra: 

In the heaven of Indra there is said to be a network of 
pearls so arranged that if you look at one you see all the 
others reflected in it. In the same way, each object in the 
world is not merely itself but involves every other object, 
and in fact is in every other object. 

The brain he was raised on was a computer, Pribram told a 
San Diego audience in 1976, but "the brain we know now al- 
lows for the experiences reported from spiritual disciplines." 

How brain processes can be altered to allow direct experience 
of the frequency domain is still a conjecture. It may involve a 
known perceptual phenomenon — the "projection" that per- 
mits us to experience the full, three-dimensional stereophonic 
sound as if the sound emanates from a point midway between 
two speakers instead of coming from two distinct sources. Re- 
search has shown that the kinesthetic senses can be similarly 
affected; tapping on both hands at a particular frequency even- 
tually causes the person to feel a third hand midway between. 
Pribram has suggested possible involvement of a deep brain 
region that has been the site of pathological disturbances, of 
deja vu, and seems involved in the "consciousness without a 

186 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

content” of mystical experience. Some alternation of frequency 
and the phase relationships in these structures may be the open 
sesame for transcendental states. 

Mystical experience, Pribram says, is no stranger than many 
other phenomena in nature, such as the selective derepression 
of DNA to form first one organ, then another. "If we get ESP or 
paranormal phenomena — or nuclear phenomena in physics — it 
simply means that we are reading out of some other dimension 
at that time. In our ordinary way, we can't understand that." 

Pribram acknowledges that the model is not easily assimi- 
lated; it too radically overturns our previous belief systems, our 
commonsense understanding of things and time and space. A 
new generation will grow up accustomed to holographic think- 
ing; and to ease their way, Pribram suggests that children 
should learn about paradox in grade school, since the new 
scientific findings are always fraught with contradiction. 

Productive scientists must be as ready to defend spirit as 
data. "This is science as it was originally conceived: the pursuit 
of understanding," says Pribram. "The days of the cold- 
hearted, hard-headed technocrat appear to be numbered." 

Pribram engagingly admits at times, "I hope you realize that 
I don't understand any of this." The admission generally pro- 
vokes a sigh of relief in even the most scientific audiences. 

The wide relevance of Pribram's synthesis of his ideas with 
those of David Bohm, like Prigogine's model, has stimulated 
excitement among social scientists, philosophers, and artists. 10 
Symposia have been organized for interdisciplinary groups 
around the country and for government officials in Wash- 
ington. In a workshop at one invitational conference, Pribram 
discussed the concepts with five Nobel laureates. 

There is surely a message in these rapidly converging scien- 
tific revolutions: in physics, psi, the interaction of mind and 
body, the evolutionary thrust, the brain's two ways of knowing 
and its potential for transcendent awareness. 

The more we learn about the nature of reality, the more 
plainly we see the unnatural aspects of our environment — and 
our lives. Out of ignorance, out of arrogance, we have been 

10 How does the holographic theory fit with the theory of dissipative struc- 
tures? Pribram says the dissipative structures may represent the means of 
unfolding from the implicate order, the way it is manifested in time and space. 

Meanwhile, Apolinario Nazarea of the University of Texas at Austin ex- 
pressed “quiet optimism" that theoretical work on dissipative structures may 
"vindicate in its main outlines the so-called holographic theory . . . though 
from a different direction." 

Liberating Knowledge 187 

working against the grain. Because we have not understood the 
brain's ability to transform pain and disequilibrium, we have 
dampened it with tranquilizers or distracted it with whatever 
was at hand. Because we have not understood that wholes are 
more than the sum of their parts, we have assembled our in- 
formation into islands, an archipelago of disconnected data. 
Our great institutions have evolved in virtual isolation from 
one another. 

Not realizing that our species evolved in cooperation, we 
have opted for competition in work, school, relationships. Not 
understanding the body's ability to reorganize its internal pro- 
cesses, we have drugged and doctored ourselves into bizarre 
side effects. Not understanding our societies as great or- 
ganisms, we have manipulated them into "cures” worse than 
the ailments. 

Sooner or later, if human society is to evolve — indeed, if it is 
to survive — we must match our lives to our new knowledge. 
For too long, the Two Cultures — the esthetic, feeling human- 
ities and cool, analytical science — have functioned indepen- 
dently, like the right and left hemispheres of a split-brain 
patient. We have been the victims of our collective divided 

Novelist Lawrence Durrell said in Justine, "Somewhere in the 
heart of experience there is an order and a coherence which we 
might surprise if we were attentive enough, loving enough, or 
patient enough. Will there be time?" Perhaps, at last. Science 
can say yes to Art. 




There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. 

Everybody's crew. 


1 will act as if what I do makes a difference. 


j^\ In C. P. Cavafy's poem, "Expecting the Barbarians," 
the populace and emperor are assembled in the pub- 
He square, awaiting the invasion of the Barbarians. 
The legislators have abandoned the senate because 
the Barbarians will make the law when they come. The orators 
have prepared no speeches because Barbarians don't appre- 
ciate fluency and fine phrases. 

But suddenly the crowd becomes solemn and despondent; 
the streets empty quickly. Word has come from the frontier: 
The Barbarians are not coming; there are no more Barbarians. 

"And now, without the Barbarians," the poet asks, "what is 
to become of us? After all, they would have been a kind of 

An overwhelming, mysterious "they" has been the perennial 
excuse for apathy. Our fates will be determined by the Barbar- 
ians, the establishment, death and taxes, vested interests, red 
tape, machines. But something is happening to people now — a 
change of mind — and, as we shall see, it is disrupting the old 
truisms of government and politics in many ways, both subtle 
and dramatic. It has altered the flow of personal power: be- 
tween men and women, parents and children, doctors and 


190 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

patients, teachers and students, employers and employees, 
"experts" and lay people. 

"A new science of politics is indispensable to a new world," 
Tocqueville said. The Aquarian Conspiracy assumes that the 
reverse is also true. A new world — a new perspective on real- 
ity — is indispensable to a new politics. "A turning of the mind," 
Huxley called it. The very sense of reality must be transformed, 
Theodore Roszak said. It has variously been called a new 
metaphysic, "the politics of consciousness," "New Age poli- 
tics," "the politics of transformation." 

This chapter is about politics in the broadest sense. It is about 
the emergence of a new kind of leader, a new definition of 
power, a dynamic power inherent in networks, and the rapidly 
growing constituency that can make all the difference. 

As a culture, we have been ambivalent about power. We use 
phrases like power-mad, power-crazed, power-hungry, power 
brokers. Those with power are seen as ruthless, single-minded, 

Yet clearly power — which derives from the Latin potere, "to 
be able" — is energy. Without power there is no movement. Just 
as personal transformation empowers the individual by reveal- 
ing an inner authority, social transformation follows a chain 
reaction of personal change. 

In the spirit of the Eightfold Path of Buddha, with its injunc- 
tions about Right Livelihood, Right Speech, and so on, 1 we 
might also think in terms of Right Power — power used not as a 
battering ram or to glorify the ego but in service to life. Appro- 
priate power. 

Power is a central issue in social and personal transforma- 
tion. Our sources and uses of power set our boundaries, give 
form to our relationships, even determine how much we let 
ourselves liberate and express aspects of the self. More than 
party registration, more than our purported philosophy or 
ideology, personal power defines our politics. 

"The new person creates the new collectivity," said political 
scientist Melvin Gurtov, "and the new collectivity creates — is — 
the new politics." The changing political paradigm concedes 
that you cannot sort out the individual from the society, nor 
can you separate "politics" from the people who engage in it. 

The person and society are yoked, like mind and body. Argu- 
ing which is more important is like debating whether oxygen or 
hydrogen is the more essential property of water. Yet the de- 
bate has raged on for centuries. After tracing the philosophical 

'The eight: Right Belief, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right 
Livelihood, Right Endeavoring, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration. 

Right Power 191 

history of the self-versus-society issue, ranging from Plato to 
Kant, Hegel, and Marx, Martin Buber pointed out that one can 
never choose. Self and society are inseparable. Eventually, any- 
one concerned with the transformation of the individual must engage 
in social action. 

“If we attempt to grow alone,” Gurtov said, “we ensure that 
the oppressiveness of the system eventually will close in 
around us. If we grow together, the system itself must 


The new political paradigm is emerging in a growing consensus 
described by a Canadian social analyst, Ruben Nelson, as “the 
literature of crisis and transformation." Although this literature 
expresses the situation in a variety of metaphors and with vary- 
ing degrees of desperation, its essence is as follows: 

The Crisis: Our institutions — especially our governing 
structures — are mechanistic, rigid, fragmented. The world isn't 

The Prescription: We must face our pain and conflict. Until we 
quit denying our failures and muffling our uneasiness, until we 
confess our bewilderment and alienation, we can't take the 
next and necessary steps. 

The political system needs to be transformed, not reformed. We 
need something else, not just something more. Economist 
Robert Theobald said, “We are engaged, if the transformational 
thinker is correct, in a process which has no parallel in human 
history — an attempt to change the whole of a culture through a con- 
scious process." In a report commissioned by the Office of Tech- 
nology Assessment, an advisory arm of Congress, Theobald 
said, “It is impossible to change one element in a culture with- 
out altering all of them." 

More quickly than we can comfortably manage, we are called 
upon to devise, discover, and refine new alternatives. How 
much easier it is to calculate the wrong turns we have made 
than to spy out truer roads! 

Our insights into human needs and capacities have changed 
more rapidly, especially through science, than our social struc- 
tures. Were we to suddenly confront extraterrestrial beings, we 
would no doubt be awed, wondering how to communicate 
with them and what they want of us. In this case, it is the image 
of a new human being that is alien. Seeing patterns and pos- 
sibilities we have not seen before, we are restless. 

192 The Aquarian Conspiracy 


If we had to restructure a society with the old tactics (organiza- 
tion, propaganda, political pressure, reeducation), it would 
seem a hopelessly large task, like reversing the spin of the 
planet. Yet personal revolutions can change institutions. Indi- 
viduals, after all, are the components of these institutions. 
Government, politics, medicine, and education are not actual 
things but the ongoing actions of people — making laws, run- 
ning for office, voting, lobbying, seeking and giving medical 
treatment, planning curricula, and so on. 

Autarchy is government by the self. The idea that social har- 
mony springs ultimately from the character of individuals ap- 
pears throughout history. According to Confucian writings, 
wise individuals, wanting good government, looked first 
within, seeking precise words to express their hitherto- 
unvoiced yearnings, “the tones given off by the heart." Once 
they were able to verbalize the intelligence of the heart they 
disciplined themselves. Order within the self led first to har- 
mony within their own households, then the state, and finally 
the empire. 

The discoveries of transformation inevitably alter our percep- 
tions of power. The discovery of freedom, for instance, means 
little if we are not empowered to act, to be free for something, 
not just from something. As fear falls away, we are less afraid of 
power's Siamese twin, responsibility. There is less certainty 
about what is right for others. With an awareness of multiple 
realities, we lose our dogmatic attachment to a single point of 
view. A new sense of connection with others promotes social 
concern. A more benign view of the world makes others seem 
less threatening; enemies disappear. There is a commitment to 
process rather than programs. It matters a great deal how we 
accomplish our ends. We can now translate intention into ac- 
tion, vision into actuality, without intrigue or manipulation. 

Power flows from an inner center, a mysterious sanctuary 
more secure than money, name, or achievement. In discover- 
ing our autonomy, we become very busy for a while, like a 
newly solvent musician who had hocked his instruments at 
pawnshops all over town and can't even recall their addresses. 
We are astonished to find out how freely, even absent- 
mindedly, we had surrendered so much that really matters, 
and, conversely, how often we trespassed on the autonomy of 
others. The power over one's life is seen as a birthright, not a 
luxury. And we wonder how we could ever have thought 

Right Power 193 


"He had won the victory over himself," says the concluding 
line of George Orwell's grim novel, 1984. "He loved Big 
Brother." Just as hostages sometimes become fond of their ab- 
ductors, we become attached to the factors that imprison us: 
our habits, customs, the expectations of others, rules, 
schedules, the state. Why do we give away our power or never 
claim it at all? Perhaps so that we can avoid decisions and 
responsibility. We are seduced by pain-avoidance, conflict- 

In Colin Wilson's science-fiction novel. The Mind Parasites, 
the protagonist and his associates discover that human con- 
sciousness has been victimized, dragged down, and intimi- 
dated by a strange parasite that has been feeding on it, sapping 
its power, for centuries. Those who become aware of the exis- 
tence of these mind parasites can get rid of them — a dangerous, 
painful undertaking, but possible. Free of the mind parasites, 
they are the first truly free human beings, elated and enor- 
mously powerful. 

Just so, our natural power is sapped by the parasites of the 
centuries: fear, superstition, a view of reality that reduces life's 
wonders to creaking machinery. If we starve these parasitic 
beliefs they will die. But we rationalize our fatigue, our inertia; 
we deny that we are haunted. 

Sometimes an individual's sense of impotence is justified; 
certainly there are vicious cycles of deprivation and lack of 
opportunity that make it difficult for some to break free. But 
most of us are passive because our awareness is constricted. 
The energy of our "passenger" consciousness is continuously 
drained off to divert us from all we feel too frightened to handle 
consciously. So we acquiesce, deny, conform. 

"Our choice," said Ruben Nelson in Illusions of Urban Man, 
published by the Canadian government, "is between the pain- 
ful but confidence-instilling process of coming to know who 
and where we are . . . and the immensely appealing but finally 
empty alternative of continuing to drift, of acting as if we know 
what we are doing when both the mounting evidence and our 
most honest fears indicate that we do not. . . .In government, 
as in other relationships, we have the capacity to deceive our- 
selves, to shape the realities by which we live, so that our prime 
focus is on our comfort rather than the truth. . . ." 

Government itself is an awesome strategy for avoiding pain 
and conflict. For a considerable price, it relieves us of respon- 
sibilities, performing acts that would be as unsavory for most of 

194 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

us as butchering our own beef. As our agent, the government 
can bomb and tax. As our agent, it can relieve us of the respon- 
sibilities once borne face to face by the community: caring for 
the young, the war-wounded, the aged, the handicapped. It 
extends our impersonal benevolence to the world's needy, re- 
lieving our collective conscience without uncomfortable first- 
hand involvement. It takes our power, our responsibility, our 
consciousness . 

Warren Bennis, former president of the University of Cin- 
cinnati, told of coming to work one day to find his office crowd- 
ed with distraught students. Two beautiful trees had been 
chopped down to widen a campus driveway. 

He followed the trail of blame: The man who cut the trees 
worked for a local contractor who was hired by the landscape 
architect to carry out the design of the landscape architect; the 
architect worked for the director of planning, whose boss was 
the head of the physical plant, supervised by the vice-president 
for management and finance, responsible to the university 
building committee, which reports to the executive vice- 
president. "When I called them all together, they numbered 
twenty, and they were innocents all. All of us. Bureaucracies 
are beautiful mechanisms for the evasion of responsibility and 

Bennis categorized such evasions as "the pornography of 
everyday life." Just as pornography is a mechanical, distant 
substitute for loving sex, so a bureaucrat's fragmented 
decision-making is removed from reality. Our leaders "sound 
like they are talking through a plate-glass window." 

The failure of other social institutions has caused us to heap 
even more responsibility on government, the most unwieldy 
institution of all. We have relinquished more and more au- 
tonomy to the state, forcing government to assume functions 
once performed by communities, families, churches — people. 
Many social tasks have reverted to government by default, and 
the end result has been creeping paralysis — unreality. 

Tocqueville regarded the surrender of responsibility in a 
democracy as a danger. "Extreme centralization of government 
ultimately enervates society," he said over a century and a half 
ago. The very benefits of a democracy, its freedoms, can lead to 
a kind of privatization of interests. Inhabitants of a democracy 
lead such busy, excited lives, "so full of wishes and work, that 
hardly any energy remains to each individual for public life." 

This dangerous tendency not only leads them to avoid par- 
ticipation in government but also to dread any perturbation of 

Right Power 195 

the peace. "The love of public tranquility is frequently the only 
passion which these nations retain "A democratic govern- 

ment will increase its power simply by the fact of its perma- 
nence, Tocqueville predicted. "Time is on its side. Every inci- 
dent befriends it The older a democratic community is, the 

more centralized will its government become." 

These bureaucracies would create their own gentle tyranny, 
he warned, one that had never before existed in the world. 
"The thing itself is new. Since I cannot name it, I must attempt 
to define it." When a great multitude seek largely after plea- 
sures, they act as if their own children and close friends are the 
whole of mankind. They become strangers to their fellow citi- 
zens. No matter how physically close they may be, they do not 
see or touch those outside their immediate circles. Each citizen 
then exists in and for himself and his close kindred alone; he has 
lost his country. 

Above the citizens stands an immense, mild, paternal power 
that keeps them in perpetual childhood. A hundred years be- 
fore Orwell, Tocqueville foresaw Big Brother: 

[It] is the sole agent of happiness; it provides for their 
security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates 
their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs 
their industry, regulates the descent of property, and sub- 
divides their inheritances — what remains, but to spare 
them all the care of thinking and the trouble of living? 

Thus every day renders the exercise of free agency less 
useful ... it circumscribes the will within a narrower range. 

It covers the surface of society with a network of small 
complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the 
most original minds and the most energetic characters 

cannot penetrate The will of man is not shattered but 

softened, bent, and guided. 

Such a power does not tyrannize but it compresses, 
enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people. The na- 
tion is nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious 
animals of which the government is the shepherd. 

Tocqueville had anticipated the paternal role of government 
and our other large hierarchical institutions (corporations, 
churches, hospitals, schools, labor unions). By their very struc- 
ture, these institutions breed fragmentation, conformity, amo- 
rality. They expand their powers while losing sight of their 
original mandate. Like a great linear half-brain, amputated 

196 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

from feeling, they are unable to see whole. They leech the life 
and significance from the body politic. 

Whether the rationale is capitalism, socialism, or Marxism, 
the focusing of great central power in a society is unnatural, 
neither flexible enough nor dynamic enough to respond to the 
fluctuating needs of people, especially the need for creative 

Sometimes, as George Cabot Lodge said, we also engage in a 
kind of nostalgic wishful thinking. We pretend to live by our 
lost myths like competition and Manifest Destiny and frontier 
individualism and Gross National Product. But on another 
level, we experience cognitive dissonance. We know desper- 
ately well that all nations are interdependent, that self- 
sufficiency is a hollow threat. We know, too, that corporations 
have evolved into powerful, semi-regulated little states bearing 
almost no resemblance to the "free enterprise" we say we 
cherish. Politicians, labor, and management struggle with 
economic realities on the one hand and deny them barefaced 
on the other, like the split-brain patients in the laboratory, 
caught between two worlds. 


The pending transformation from a seventeenth-century so- 
ciopolitical paradigm to a new framework is an earthquake for 
our institutions. Lodge said, for their legitimacy dies with the 
dying ideology. 

Thinking about the crisis of our institutions in terms of an 
impending sociopolitical paradigm shift can be reassuring and 
even illuminating, for it places our current stress and trouble in 
the perspective of historic transformation. 

A community of people — a society — runs its affairs within an 
agreed-upon form, a government. Just as the established scien- 
tific paradigm provides for "normal science," so the govern- 
ment and prevailing social customs provide for the normal 
transactions of a society. Politics is the exercise of power within 
this consensus. 

Just as scientists inevitably come across facts that contradict 
the existing paradigm, so individuals within a society begin to 
experience anomalies and conflicts: an unequal distribution of 
power, an abridgement of freedoms, unjust laws or practices. 
Like a community of established scientists, the society at first 
ignores or denies these inherent contradictions. As tension 

Right Power 197 

arises, it tries to reconcile them within the existing system by 
elaborate rationales. 

If this conflict is too intense or focused to be suppressed, a 
revolution eventually occurs in the form of a social movement. 
The old consensus is broken, and freedoms are extended. In 
American history this is best seen in the expansion of the 
paradigm of suffrage. First, enfranchisement was extended to 
propertied white males, then to all white male citizens, then to 
male citizens of all races, eventually to citizens of both sexes 
over the age of twenty-one, and then to all citizens over the age 
of eighteen. 

A political paradigm shift might be said to occur when the 
new values are assimilated by the dominant society. These 
values then become social dogma to members of a new genera- 
tion, who marvel that anyone could ever have believed other- 
wise. Yet in their midst new conflicts and ideas will arise, and 
they will be denied, ignored, even repressed, and on and on. 

The irrational pattern of human behavior repeats itself again 
and again, individually and collectively. Even when our old 
forms are failing miserably, even when they cannot handle the 
problems of the day, they are fiercely defended; those who 
challenge them are derided. 

Generation after generation, humankind fights to preserve 
the status quo, maintaining "better the devil you know than 
the devil you don't know," a bit of folk cynicism that assumes 
the unknown to be dangerous. We use "enemy skills" against 
change — to borrow Virginia Satir's phrase — failing to see that 
all growth depends on the capacity to transform. Amidst the 
flux of the natural world, we cling to the familiar and resist 
transformation. "Faced with having to change our views or 
prove that there is no need to do so," John Kenneth Galbraith 
said, "most of us get busy on the proof." 

If we are to break out of this pattern, if we are to be liberated 
from our personal and collective history, we must learn to iden- 
tify it — to see the ways of discovery and innovation, to over- 
come our discomfort with and resistance to the new, and to 
recognize the rewards of cooperating with change. 

Thomas Kuhn was by no means the first to point out this 
pattern. It was discussed very specifically a century earlier by 
the English political philosopher, John Stuart Mill. Every age, 
he said, has held opinions that subsequent generations found 
not only false but absurd. He warned his nineteenth-century 
contemporaries that many ideas then prevalent would be re- 
jected by future ages. Therefore they should welcome the ques- 

198 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

tioning of all ideas, even those that seemed most obviously 
true, like Newton's philosophy! The best safeguard of ideas is 
“a standing invitation to the whole world to prove them un- 

If all of mankind minus one held an opinion, he said, and 
that one believed otherwise, the others would have no more 
right to silence him than he would to silence the majority. 
Mill emphasized that his point was not moral but practical. A 
society's suppression of new ideas robs the society itself. "We 
must neglect nothing that could give the truth a chance of 
reaching us." 

He took issue with those who maintained that it did no harm 
to persecute ideas because — if they were true — nothing could 
obscure their rightness. Mill pointed out that many important 
ideas had surfaced several times and their exponents had been 
persecuted before they were rediscovered in a more tolerant 
age. Although historically, Europe advanced only when it 
broke the yoke of old ideas, most people continued to act as if 
"new truths may have been desirable once, but we have quite 
enough of them now." These new truths — "heresies" — 
smoldered among the few. Mill said, rather than blazing into 
the whole culture. Fear of heresy is more dangerous than 
heresy, for it deprives a people of "the free and daring specula- 
tion which would strengthen and enlarge minds." 

Many political philosophers pondered this problem of popu- 
lar resistance to new and strange ideas. They called it "the 
tyranny of the majority," the tendency of societies, even the 
most liberal, to suppress free thinking. This is the paradox of 
freedom: Anyone who comes to treasure autonomy must grant 
it to others, and the only means of collective self-determination 
is majority rule, which may then endanger freedom itself. 

Revolutionary thinkers do not believe in single revolutions. 
They see change as a way of life. Jefferson, Mill, Tocqueville, 
and many others were concerned about creating an environ- 
ment hospitable to change within a relatively stable political 
system. They wanted governments in which healthy unrest 
would make for continuous renewal, in which freedoms would 
be continually enlarged and extended. Thoreau, for example, 
looked for a form of government beyond democracy, one in 
which individual conscience would be respected by the state as 
"a higher and different power," the context for all authority. 

Society puts its free spirits in prison, he said, when instead it 
should "cherish its wise minority." But there is a way out: 
Anyone who discovers a truth becomes a majority of one, a 

Right Power 199 

qualitatively different force from the uncommitted majority. In 
their unwillingness to practice the virtues they preached, 
Thoreau found the inhabitants of his town "a distinct race from 
me." Jailed for refusing to pay taxes because he opposed the 
war against Mexico, Thoreau observed that even behind walls 
of stone and mortar he was freer than those who had jailed 
him. "I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own 
fashion. They only can force me who obey a higher law than I." 

If all of those who opposed slavery or the war would refuse 
to pay their taxes, he said in his famous essay on civil disobedi- 
ence, the state — faced with full jails and diminishing funds — 
would have to relent. This would create a peaceful revolution. 

"Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your 
whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to 
the majority . . . but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole 
weight. . . . Let your life be a counter friction to stop the 

Gandhi carried the concept of the powerful committed 
minority into the twentieth century, first gaining recognition of 
the rights of Indians living in South Africa and then achieving 
India's independence from British domination. "It is a 
superstitious and ungodly thing to believe that an act of a 
majority binds a minority," he said. "It is not numbers that 

count but quality 1 do not regard the force of numbers as 

necessary in a just cause." 

The revolutionary principle introduced by Gandhi resolves 
the paradox of freedom. He called it satyagraha, "soul force" or 
"truth force." Satyagraha was essentially misunderstood in the 
West, described as "passive resistance," a term Gandhi dis- 
avowed because it suggests weakness, or "non-violence," 
which was just one of its components. As educator Timothy 
Flinders said, to call satyagraha passive resistance is like calling 
light nondarkness; it does not describe the positive energy in 
the principle. 

Satyagraha derives its power from two apparently opposite 
attributes: fierce autonomy and total compassion. It says, in 
effect: "I will not coerce you. Neither will I be coerced by you. If 
you behave unjustly, I will not oppose you by violence (body- 
force) but by the force of truth — the integrity of my beliefs. My 
integrity is evident in my willingness to suffer, to endanger 
myself, to go to prison, even to die if necessary. But I will not 
cooperate with injustice. 

"Seeing my intention, sensing my compassion and my 
openness to your needs, you will respond in ways I could 

200 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

never manage by threat, bargaining, pleading, or body-force. 
Together we can solve the problem. It is our opponent, not 
each other.” 

Satyagraha is the strategy of those who reject solutions that 
compromise the freedom or integrity of any participant. Gan- 
dhi always said it is the weapon of the strong because it re- 
quires heroic restraint and the courage to forgive. He turned 
the whole idea of power upside down. When he visited the 
mountain hideout of Indian militants and saw their guns, he 
said, "You must be very frightened." 

Satyagraha, by whatever name, is an attitude that removes 
politics from the old territory of confrontation, deal-making, 
seduction, and game-playing, into a new arena of candor, 
shared humanness, a search for understanding. It transforms 
conflict at its source, the hearts of the participants. It is an 
environment of acceptance in which people can change with- 
out feeling defeated. Those who use it must be vigilant and 
flexible, looking for truth even in the position of the opponent. 2 
Erik Erikson said of Gandhi that he "could help others discard 
costly defenses and denials. . . . Insight and discipline can dis- 
arm, or give a power stronger than all arms." 

2 The alliances of groups protesting nuclear power have adapted Gandhi's 
ideas to their cause. Those who wish to participate in their demonstrations 
undergo a weekend training seminar in nonviolent political action, then are 
assigned to small “affinity groups." These groups, typically comprised of five 
men and five women, are free to create their own form of protest within the 
larger demonstration. 

Satyagraha requires an openness to the truth in whatever form it may appear. 
A brochure of the Alliance for Survival notes that “truth and the sense of 
justice reside in every person. We are not the incarnation of good while 
Pacific Gas & Electric Company officials are the incarnation of evil. Just as we 
have injustice in us, so they have justice in them." 

All actions must be free of the attempt to humiliate, injure, or subjugate, the 
leaflet warns. "Such actions only serve to harden and justify the opposition's 
position against us. That is why the nonviolent take upon themselves suffering 
and hardships. By so doing we open the heart of our adversary and stir the 
conscience of the indifferent." The goal must be more than winning the fight 
against nuclear power. "Our goal must be a thorough cultural revolution. So 
we must be careful not to sacrifice what we believe to be good in order to stop 
nuclear power." 

The spirit of nonviolence must be reflected in leaflets, interviews, the tone 
and phrasing of publications, relations with utility officials, the running of 
meetings, interpersonal relationships. "All signs of defiance and contempt 
defeat our purpose. The closed-fist salute, obscene or nearly obscene chants, 
and rhetorical diatribes against the government: are these really anything more 
than signs of our own frustration and impotence? The strong-hearted have no 
need for anything more than love." 

Right Power 201 

Satyagraha works silently and apparently slowly, Gandhi 
said, "but in reality, there is no force in the world so direct or so 
swift." It is an old idea, as old as the hills, he said, and he and 
his friends had merely experimented with it. "Those who be- 
lieve in the simple truths I have laid down can propagate them 
only by living them." Start where you are, he told his follow- 
ers. Thoreau had said the same thing: "It matters not how small 
the beginning may seem." 


James MacGregor Burns, political scientist and Pulitzer- 
prize-winning historian, used Gandhi as an example of "trans- 
forming leadership," leadership as a process of continuous 
change and growth. The true leader, as Burns defined it, is not 
a mere "power wielder" eager to accomplish personal objec- 
tives. The true leader senses and transforms the needs of followers. 

Keep in mind that I have a different view of followers than 
most people do. I don't see followers simply as persons 
holding a collection of static opinions. I see them as having 

levels of needs The effective leader mobilizes new, 

"higher" needs in his followers. 

The truly great or creative leaders do something more — 
they induce new, more activist tendencies in their follow- 
ers. They arouse in them hopes and aspirations and expec- 
tations. . . . Ultimately they arouse demands which are easily 
politicized and even turned back onto the leaders who 
arouse them. 

In this engagement with their followers, the leaders are also 
transformed. They may even reverse roles with followers, as 
teachers learn from students. 

By Burns's definition, dictators cannot be true leaders be- 
cause, by suppressing the feedback from followers, they inter- 
rupt the dynamics of the relationship. No longer transformed 
by the changing needs of the people, dictators cannot foster 
further growth. Leader-follower relationships include parent 
and child, coach and athlete, teacher and student, and so on. 
Many parents, coaches, and teachers are not true leaders but 
only power wielders. Transforming leadership cannot be a 
one-way street. 

Historically, leaders have sometimes inspired a surprisingly 

202 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

high-minded response from constituents. Burns cites as an 
example the state conventions in the 1780s that ratified the 
United States Constitution. Despite a poorly educated 
populace and poor communications, the conventions focused 
on such issues as the need for a bill of rights, questions of the 
distribution of power, representation. "That is a superb exam- 
ple of the capacity of leaders and followers to rise above the 
belly, to the level of the brain or perhaps even the soul," Burns 

Many revolutions succeeded despite limited popular support 
in the beginning, he said, "because the leaders engaged their 
followers so intensely that attitudes were transformed, con- 
sciousness was aroused." True leadership not only helps 
satisfy our present needs It awakens us to deeper dissatis- 

factions, hungers. By definition, you can only "raise con- 
sciousness" about something that is true. Propaganda, on the 
other hand, can be a lie. The difference between an authentic 
leader, making us aware of inarticulate needs and conflicts, and 
a power wielder is like the difference between a guide and a 
hard-sell advertiser. 

The true leader fosters a paradigm shift in those who are ready. But 
transforming leaders know that you cannot "teach" or "help" 
others to higher awareness in the same way you might teach 
them to prepare tax forms. You can seduce people into direct 
experiences, you can embody freedom and aliveness as an 
example, but you cannot convince anyone to change. 

Nor do the most effective leaders take credit for changes they 
help to elicit. As Lao-tse said, leadership is best when the 
people say, "We did it ourselves." 

As soon as power is localized, as soon as attention centers on 
an individual, the coherence and energy in a movement is di- 
minished. Sensing when to assume leadership and when to 
pull back is not easy. Like learning to ride a bicycle, it takes 
some falling over and a constant readjustment of balance. But 
people can coalesce into self-organizing groups to powerful ef- 
fect. And they are devising ways to govern themselves without 
determining a boss or establishing a clear agenda. Such self- 
organizing groups are the fabric of the Aquarian Conspiracy. 
Even individuals accustomed to running large institutions can 
easily fit into such a format. 

For example, a meeting at a country retreat in a southern 
state in early December 1978: The fourteen men and six women 
who attended included a congressman; the heads of founda- 

Right Power 203 

tions in Washington, New York, and California; a former pres- 
idential speechwriter; the dean of an Ivy League college; the 
retired dean of a medical school; a Canadian policymaker; the 
owner of a major-league baseball team; the director and the 
assistant director of a famous think tank; an artist; a publisher; 
and three federal policymakers. Most did not know each other. 

They had been invited by a letter that explained that, despite 
their diverse backgrounds, they had something in common: 

We tend to share a conviction that this nation, and indus- 
trialized society in general, is experiencing profound trans- 
formation. We perceive that the next decade could be 
perilous if we fail to understand the nature and tran- 
scendent potential of the transformation. 

We agree that at the heart of this transformation is a 
change in the basic social paradigm, including fundamen- 
tal beliefs and values underlying the present form of the 
industrial economy. In our own positions in government, 
business, education, or professional life, we sense a deep 
need for the society to find its spiritual moorings, its sense 
of destiny, of right direction. 

We seek the support and comradeship of others of like 
mind, confident that when minds are joined in common 
search and purpose, the effect is amplified. We recognize 
that our country was guided in its initial decades by this 
kind of joining of minds in common purpose. 

It is in keeping with these shared convictions that the 
meeting be quite unstructured. There will be no chairper- 
son. There is no agenda. There will be no speeches. Simply 
come prepared to share your deepest hopes and concerns. 
We have no specific expectations for what may emerge 
from this meeting. 

After dinner the first evening, the attendees were asked to 
introduce themselves one by one. What had started as a simple 
formality became the agenda for that night and part of the 
following morning; the process became the program. Almost 
like tribal storytellers around a fire, they told their tales of 
power and of transformation, intensely personal and moving 
narratives. Defenseless and matter of fact, they talked about 
their fears and successes, their despair and disillusionment, the 
ways in which life's blows had often proved blessings, turning 
them toward a more rewarding path. Strangers who trusted 

204 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

each other immediately, they recounted the ways in which the 
society's most sought-after prizes had failed them. At some 
point each had experienced a profound shift in perception, 
often at a time of personal trauma. Each was overtaken by 
deeper, more intense needs. Life became a spiritual quest, a 
joyful, mysterious search for meaning, marked in most cases by 
an accelerating occurrence of coincidences, events that seemed 
significant in their timing — synchronicities. 

Each had come to feel strangely like an instrument qf evolu- 
tion, following a path that was only lighted step by step; they 
were feeling their way into this new reality, testing their inner 
gyroscopes. Clearly these odysseys followed the same form, 
with the same landmarks here and there. And the participants 
had concluded, independently, that they must join others to 
make a world in which such journeys were less lonely. They 
must conspire. 

Over the next three days they talked about cooperating to a 
particular end or purpose, but again and again drew back from 
anything like a "master plan." They knew they could effect 
changes in the society — action was their forte — but they were 
concerned about imposing a specific vision, afraid that they 
might be tempted to "play God" despite their best intentions. 
There was honest conflict, self- inquiry, resolution. Twos and 
threes joined for long conversations, long walks. Many hours 
were spent searching the further reaches of that most difficult 
of power issues, close personal relationships. 

Occasionally they all joined hands for ten or fifteen minutes 
and "listened" in silence. At times, when a silent interval fol- 
lowed urgent debate or confrontation, several were in tears, 
having experienced a release of tension and often a shaking 
insight into themselves or into the perspective of someone else. 

Here and there, without a master plan, the joining of pur- 
pose happened. Linkages were formed: friendships, plans for 
meetings, joint projects, introductions to mutual friends. Four 
of the participants met afterward on the East and West Coasts 
to set up a new international foundation for peace. Soon they 
were presenting small seminars on the new consciousness for 
generals at the U.S. Army War College and in the offices of the 
International Communications Agency. Within the month, 
several in the group mobilized to intervene successfully on be- 
half of the academic freedom of the dean when his research 
was judged too controversial by the president of his university. 
Those who lived in proximity (Washington, New York City, the 

Right Power 205 

Bay Area) pooled their connections and enlarged their net- 
works. The congressman enlisted the aid of participants in his 
effort to obtain testimony and funding for research into altered 
states of consciousness. 

“People," Robert Theobald once remarked, “are the organiz- 
ing principle." 


At first glance, social transformation seems a foolhardy, even 
perilous ambition for any group to undertake. There is a neces- 
sary and critical chain of events. First, profound change in in- 
dividuals who care deeply about social change, who find each 
other, and who acquaint themselves with the psychology of 
change, with insights into our universal fear of the unknown. 
They must then devise ways to foster paradigm shifts in others; 
they must perturb, awaken, and recruit. This aligned minority, 
knowing that changes of heart and not rational argument alone 
sway people, must find ways of relating to others at the most 
human and immediate level. 

If they are not to fall into the old traps (power plays, desper- 
ate compromises, self-aggrandizement), they must live by their 
principles. Knowing that means must be as honorable as ends, 
they go into political battle stripped of conventional political 
weapons. They must discover new strategies and new well- 
springs of power. 

And this aligned, principled, sophisticated, committed, and 
creative minority must also be irrepressible. It must make 
waves large enough to set off a reordering of the whole 
system — fluctuations, in the language of the theory of dissipa- 
tive structures. Difficult? Impossible? Seen another way, the 
process cannot fail because it is also the goal. 

That's why the new collective is the new politics. As soon as 
we begin to work for a different kind of a world, the world 
changes for us. The networks of the Aquarian Conspiracy — 
self-organizing forms that allow both autonomy and human 
connection — are at once both the tools for social change and 
the models of a new society. Every collective struggle for 
social transformation becomes an experiment in social trans- 

The goal recedes; whether or not the whole of society 
changes, and however long that process may take, individuals 

206 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

are finding joy, unity, and purpose in their mutual efforts. 
They are engaged in meaningful, and therefore adventurous, 
work. They know that the cynics must have their grim world, 
too. As Thoreau said, the minority need not wait to per- 
suade the majority. And the vision, as we shall see, is self- 

The transformative effect of social movements on both par- 
ticipants and society can be seen in the effects of the protest 
and counterculture of the 1960s. A counterculture is living, 
breathing theory; speculation about the society's next phase. At 
its worst, it can seem lawless and strange, an experiment that 
fails to bridge the old and new. At its best, it is a transforming 
leadership, deepening the awareness of the dominant culture. 
The first colonists to dissent from British rule were a counter- 
culture; so were the Transcendentalists. 

Like a play within a play, the transformation of the counter- 
culture and the protest movements is instructive; a pendulum 
change that has become paradigm change. Like generations of 
activists and reformers before them, the counterculturists tried 
at first to change the political institutions. It was only as they 
struggled among themselves and in frustrating confrontation 
with the establishment that they discovered the real vanguard 
of revolution: the "front" within. 

Jerry Rubin, one of the Chicago Eight, who made headlines 
as a radical social activist in the sixties, later said, "It's the 
spiritual movement that's truly revolutionary. Without self- 
awareness, political activism only perpetuates cycles of 
anger. ... I couldn't change anybody until I changed myself." 
Laurel Robertson recalled her years as a student in Berkeley: 

I really wanted to help people, to change things for the 
better. One summer I was involved in a very constructive 
non-violent education program about the Vietnam war. 
Everybody who was working on it had selfless motives, 
but by the end of the summer the whole thing fell apart 
because we couldn't get along with each other. I had to 
face the fact that you cannot make the world nonviolent 
and loving unless you make yourself nonviolent and 

In retrospect, the inward turn of this revolution seems almost 
inevitable. A former protestor, now on the faculty of a state 
medical school, said, "Despite the violence, the protest of the 

Right Power 207 

1960s basically reflected human concerns — peace, minority 
rights, relevance in education — rather than traditional political 

Philosophically, if not always practically, the movements of 
the 1960s focused on a new kind of power, personal rather than 
collective. Dorothy Healy, who was then chairman of the 
Communist party in Southern California, said years later, "A 
new generation was marching, moving, and the party was not 
into it, did not understand it. What was happening did not 
proceed according to classical Marxism as we understood it. 
The working class was not in the vanguard, and the basic is- 
sues were not economic." 

With failures and partial successes behind them, many of the 
leading activists went in a direction that greatly troubled their 
supporters in the conventional Left. They became involved in 
their own transformative process. This turn of events confused 
the media and many social scientists into thinking the revolu- 
tion had dissolved. Lou Krupnik said: 

We stayed in the streets through tear gas and billy clubs 
and went inside only when holy people whispered 
Sanskrit mantras into our eager ears. We went inward for 
several years, trying to generate alternatives to the mad- 

We're entering a new period. Now we're beginning to 
synthesize the creative and organizing drives that are part 
of our heritage. 

In "Notes on the Tao of the Body Politic," Michael Rossman 
remarked, "When I look through the political lens now, I see 
that all I do is an essential test of holiness, politically speaking." 
Democracy, as one of the radicals said, is not a political state 
but a spiritual condition: "We're parts of a whole." 

The attempt to find and foster wholeness, to be social heal- 
ers, has given new life to the old concerns. Ex-militants have 
successfully run for office around the country and have re- 
ceived major political appointments as well. For example, Sam 
Brown, organizer of the War Moratorium protest against the 
Vietnam conflict, successfully reformed banking practices as 
the state treasurer of Colorado and was later appointed by Car- 
ter to head the agency that administers VISTA and the Peace 
Corps. Brown said, "Social change isn't going to come as 
quickly as any of us would like it to come. Building a commu- 
nity is a more subtle, delicate, long-term process. ..." 

208 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

In the 1960s most of the serious social activists disapproved 
of the easy-going counterculture, with its interest in 
psychedelics, camaraderie, a spontaneous lifestyle. Writing in 
1976 in Focus /Midwest, a radical journal, Harold Baron said: 

With a different mind-set we could react differently. We 
could feel comradeship, sense new possibilities Per- 

haps hope for the humanized urban future lies not with 
the technocrats but with the community-builders. If this is 
true, we must make one last bow in the direction of the 
counterculturists; at the very least they were asking the 
right questions. We shall all be asking them again. 

Initially the activists of the 1960s, like generations of political 
reformers before them, tried force and persuasion; they wrote, 
demonstrated, sermonized, scolded, lobbied, proselytized, ar- 
gued. But they began to realize the truth of Thoreau's injunc- 
tion: Live your beliefs, and you can turn the world around. 

The emphasis on building community and on action in small 
groups represents the major shift in radical political thinking. 
Another former social activist, Noel Mclnnis, said recently, 
"I'm convinced that society will be changed only by events, not 
institutions. Meaningful change can only be implemented at 
the level of the person, the neighborhood, the small group. At 
a recent reunion of the SDS [Students for a Democratic 
Society], most who showed up had come to the same conclu- 
sion and restyled their activism accordingly." 

James MacGregor Burns said that greatness in leadership is 
most likely to arise from "creative local circumstances." Just as 
the American people, with so much going against them in the 
1770s and 1780s, were challenged by their leaders to rise to 
greatness in the state constitutional conventions, so may we 
transcend our present crisis. He predicted that the leaders of 
the future are likely to emerge from those who were involved in 
the conflicts of the 1960s — "a leadership corps in exile, people 
now in their thirties and forties who could burst onto the 
national scene." 

Because the leadership of the future is coming out of organi- 
zations close to people. Burns said, social critics who rely only 
on the central media will miss this revolution in the making. 
Expressions of ferment are more evident in hundreds of 
thousands of small publications and in the statements of 

Tom Hayden, a co-defendant of Rubin in the Chicago trial. 

Right Power 209 

later a California Democratic candidate for the United States 
Senate, said of himself and his fellow activists, "Our time is 
coming, but not as quickly and not necessarily in the same way 
we once wished." They had not abandoned the barricades so 
much as they had now taken their struggle into specific service: 
political, ecological, consumerist, spiritual. Hayden wrote in 

As spiraling energy costs aggravate the economic picture, 
more and more Americans will be competing for less and 
less in the "land of opportunity." Hope, the force that 
motivates people to become involved in life — may burn 
low or even out, especially for the young. 

I can think of only one long-term alternative, and I still 
see it coming. What began in the 1960s — a rising demand 
for a voice in the decisions controlling our lives — will 
spread to every sphere. . . . 

The political activists of the '60s, having now fully cut 
their teeth, will be back again and again with the same 
philosophy but expressed through new roles. If the '60s 
brought our birth and development, the '80s and '90s will 
be our years of maximum influence and maturity. 

My point is simple: the '60s created what can be called 
leadership for the future ... a new generation of dedicated 
and politicized people. In our fathers' time, democracy 
was threatened from abroad, our own institutions were 
basically sound, affluence appeared to most to be guaran- 
teed, America was No. 1. 

In our time we have received a different world view. 
Democracy has been threatened by "plumbers" operating 
from the White House, our institutions are troubled, afflu- 
ence is hardly guaranteed, and being No. 1 in bombs 
hasn't made us No. 1 in the quality of life. 

The reappearance in years ahead of the '60s activists . . . 
will be misread by many. Some will not recognize us, and 
some will believe we have "settled down" too much. We 
will not be a protesting fringe, because the fringe of yes- 
terday is the mainstream of tomorrow. We will not be 
protesting but proposing solutions: an energy program 
emphasizing renewable resources . . . democratic restruc- 
turing of large corporations . . . technology to decentralize 
decision-making and information 

Those who filled the streets in the '60s may yet fill the 
halls of government in the '80s, and if we do, I don't be- 

210 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

lieve we will forget our roots. When I was being sentenced 
by Judge Julius Hoffman at the end of the Chicago trial, he 
looked bemusedly at me and said, "A smart fellow like you 
could go far under our system.” 

Who knows. Your Honor, perhaps I will 


Obviously there are many heresies in the emergent paradigm. 
It denies that our leaders are our betters, that money can solve 
many problems, that more and better can solve problems, that 
loyalty outranks inner authority. The new paradigm avoids 
head-on confrontation, political poles. It reconciles, innovates, 
decentralizes, and does not claim to have the answers. If we 
were to summarize the paradigms, we would find the follow- 
ing contrasts: 


Emphasis on programs, 
issues, platform, 
manifesto, goals. 

Change is imposed 
by authority. 

Institutionalizes help, 

Impetus toward strong 
central government. 


Emphasis on a new 
perspective. Resistance 
to rigid programs, 

Change grows out of 
consensus and/or is 
inspired by leadership. 

Encourages individual 
help, voluntarism, as 
complement to 
government role. 
Reinforces self-help, 
mutual-help networks. 

Favors reversing trend, 
government wherever 
feasible; horizontal 
distribution of power. 
Small focused central 
government would serve 
as clearinghouse. 

Right Power 211 


Power for others 
(care taking) or against 
them. Win/lose 

Government as 
monolithic institution. 

Vested interests, 
manipulation, power 

Solely ''masculine,” 
rational orientation, 
linear model. 

Aggressive leaders, 
passive followers. 

Party- or issue-oriented. 

Either pragmatic or 

Emphasis on freedom 
from certain types of 

Government to keep 
people in line 
(disciplinary role) or 
as benevolent parent. 

Left versus Right. 


Power with others. 
Win/win orientation. 

Government as consensus 
of individuals, subject to 

Respect for the autonomy 
of others. 

Both rational and intuitive 
principles, appreciation of 
nonlinear interaction, 
dynamic systems model. 

Leaders and followers 
engaged in dynamic 
relationship, affecting 
each other. 


Politics determined by 
worldview, perspective of 

Pragmatic and visionary. 

Emphasis on freedom for 
positive, creative action, 

Government to foster 
growth, creativity, 

transformation, synergy. 

"Radical Center” — a 
synthesis of conservative 
and liberal traditions. 
Transcendence of old 
polarities, quarrels. 

212 The Aquarian Conspiracy 


Humankind as conqueror 
of nature; exploitive view 
of resources. 

Emphasis on external, 
imposed reform. 

Quick-fix or pay-later 

Entrenched agencies, 
programs, departments. 

Choice between best 
interest of individual or 

Prizes conformity, 

aspects of human 

Modeled after Newtonian 
view of the universe. 
Mechanistic, atomistic. 


Humankind in 
partnership with nature. 
Emphasis on 
conservation, ecological 

Emphasis on trans- 
formation in individuals 
as essential to 
successful reform. 

Emphasis on foresight, 
long-range repercussions, 
ethics, flexibility. 

encouraged. Favors 
frequent evaluation, 
flexibility, ad hoc 

Refusal to make that 
choice. Self-interest and 
community interest 

Pluralist, innovative. 

Attempts to be 
holistic. Searches for 
interrelationships between 
branches of government, 
liaison, cross-fertilization. 

In flux, the counterpart 
in politics of modem 

Right Power 213 


A revolution means that power changes hands, of course, but it 
does not necessarily mean open struggle, a coup, victor and 
vanquished. Power can be dispersed through the social fabric. 

While most of our institutions are faltering, a twentieth- 
century version of the ancient tribe or kinship has appeared: 
the network, a tool for the next step in human evolution. 

Amplified by electronic communications, freed from the old 
restraints of family and culture, the network is the antidote to 
alienation. It generates power enough to remake society. It 
offers the individual emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and 
economic support. It is an invisible home, a powerful means of 
altering the course of institutions, especially government. 

Anyone who discovers the rapid proliferation of networks 
and understands their strength can see the impetus for 
worldwide transformation. The network is the institution of 
our time: an open system, a dissipative structure so richly 
coherent that it is in constant flux, poised for reordering, capa- 
ble of endless transformation. 

This organic mode of social organization is more biologically 
adaptive, more efficient, and more "conscious" than the 
hierarchical structures of modem civilization. The network is 
plastic, flexible. In effect, each member is the center of the 

Networks are cooperative, not competitive. They are true 
grass roots: self-generating, self-organizing, sometimes even 
self-destructing. They represent a process, a journey, not a 
frozen structure. 

As Theodore Roszak said, the old revolutionary mass move- 
ments offered no more refuge to the person than did capitalist 

societies. "We need a class smaller than a proletariat The 

new politics will speak for the millions — one by one." 

Interestingly, H. G. Wells had predicted in his 1928 blueprint 
for a new society that the Open Conspiracy would have no 
"ordinary" adherents — no pawns, no cannon fodder. The form 
of the conspiracy would not be a centralized organization but, 
rather, small groups of friends and coalitions of such groups. 
This is a radical idea. For all its claims of grass-roots support, 
traditional politics has always been applied from the top down; 
influential political scientists, economists and miscellaneous 
power brokers decided the issues and passed the word to blocs 
of voters. 

214 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

As the benefits of linkage and cooperation become more visi- 
ble, networks have coalesced for just about every imaginable 
purpose. Some focus on personal development, spiritual 
search, or rehabilitation of members; others address them- 
selves primarily to social issues. (Some are strong special inter- 
est groups and apply political pressure in fairly conventional 
ways; they are the most vulnerable to conversion to conven- 
tional hierarchical organizations.) 

Whatever their stated purpose, the function of most of these 
networks is mutual support and enrichment, empowerment of 
the individual, and cooperation to effect change. Most aim for a 
more humane, hospitable world. 

In its rich opportunities for mutual aid and support, the net- 
work is reminiscent of its forebear, the kinship system. Yet the 
"family" in this case has formed on the basis of deeply held 
values and shared assumptions, bonds thicker than blood. 

The network is a matrix for personal exploration and group 
action, autonomy and relationship. Paradoxically, a network is 
both intimate and expansive. Unlike vertical organizations, it can 
maintain its personal or local quality while ever growing. You 
don't have to choose between involvement on a community or 
global scale; you can have both. 

Networks are the strategy by which small groups can trans- 
form an entire society. Gandhi used coalitions to lead India to 
independence. He called it "grouping unities" and said it was 
essential to success. "The circle of unities thus grouped in the 
right fashion will ever grow in circumference until at last it is 
coterminous with the whole world." Edward Carpenter's 
tum-of-the-century prophecy spoke of the linking and over- 
lapping of networks to create "the finished, free society." 

Informally, as well as with computers and directories, net- 
works are connecting those with complementary skills, inter- 
ests, goals. Networks promote the linkage of their members 
with other people, other networks. 

Art historian Jose Arguelles compared such networks to the 
biological force of syntropy — the tendency of life energy to- 
ward ever greater association, communication, cooperation, 
awareness. The network is like a collective bodymind, he 
suggested, like the brain's left and right hemispheres, intellect 
and intuition. "The network is tremendously liberating. The 
individual is at the center. ..." 

Comparing the network to the human nervous system is 
more than a handy metaphor. In a very real sense, the 
brain and a network operate similarly. The brain is more coali- 
tional than hierarchical in its structure. Meaning in the brain 

Right Power 215 

is generated by dynamic patterns, coalitions of groups of neu- 
rons and interaction between groups. Power in the brain is 

In the most expanded and coherent states of consciousness, 
as we have seen, energy is the most widely available and or- 
dered. The brain is wholly awake. Just so, the network is an alert, 
responsive form of social organization. Information moves in a 
nonlinear fashion, all at once, and in a meaningful way. 

As the creative person makes new connections, juxtaposing 
unlikely elements to invent something new, so the network 
connects people and interests in surprising ways. These com- 
binations foster invention, creativity. A network formed to as- 
sure a more psychologically healthy environment for babies 
cooperates with a humanistically oriented organization for old 
people. The old people, otherwise feeling useless and lonely, 
help love and nurture babies and toddlers in a day-care center. 

Synergy, the bonus of energy that results from cooperation 
in natural systems, is there for us, too. As we begin to discover 
it in relationship with others in our small group, potential bene- 
fits for society become evident. As physicist John Platt put it: 

Whenever even two people start giving to each other and 
working for each other, these qualities and rewards im- 
mediately appear — greater mutual benefit, greater ease, 
and greater individual development at the same time. 
They appear as soon as a couple begins to work together, 
or a family, or a neighborhood, or a nation. The great 
creative teams of American scientists exhibit them. The 
European Common Market exhibits them. 

By mutual giving with those around us, we begin to 
make a kind of local Utopia where the benefits are so 

Once you have seen the power inherent in human align- 
ment, you cannot think about the future in old terms. The 
explosion of networks in the past five years has been like a 
conflagration in a fireworks factory. This spiraling linkage — 
individuals with each other, groups with groups — is like a great 
resistance movement, an underground in an occupied country 
on the eve of liberation. 

Power is changing hands, from dying hierarchies to living 

Alfred Katz of the University of California, Los Angeles, 
School of Public Health, who organized an international con- 
ference in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, to discuss mutual-aid net- 

216 The Aquarian Conspiracy / 

works, called them "a dynamic social force in the latter half of 
the Twentieth Century.” This is our healthy response to the 
remoteness of modern institutions, Katz said. Networks have 

“a powerful and refreshing impact on social policy They 

represent a spontaneous social resistance to massive bureau- 
cratic trends.” 

He suggested that one reason networks have been little no- 
ticed is that no one has figured out how to spend large amounts 
of money on something so simple and powerful. 

"Mutual-help networks reflect a shift of both action and con- 
sciousness in great numbers of people. The consequences 
should not be underestimated.” 

California governor Jerry Brown called self-reliance and 
mutual help in the private sector the first new idea to emerge in 
politics in twenty years. The idea of neighbors cooperating 
to build an open and equal society is "both human and 

Luther Gerlach and Virginia Hine, anthropologists who have 
studied social-protest networks since the 1960s, have chris- 
tened the contemporary networks SPINs (Segmented Poly cen- 
tric Integrated Networks). A SPIN gains its energy from coali- 
tions, from the combining and recombining of talents, tools, 
strategies, numbers, contacts. It is Gandhi's "grouping of uni- 
ties.” Like a brain, the SPIN is capable of simultaneous connec- 
tion at many points. Its segments are the small groups, which 
hang together loosely on the basis of shared values. Occasion- 
ally, by a kind of friendly fission, the SPIN has a spin-off. The 
multiplicity of groups strengthens the movement. 

Whereas a conventional organization chart would show 
neatly linked boxes, the organization chart of a SPIN would 
look like "a badly knotted fishnet with a multitude of nodes of 
varying sizes, each linked to all the others, directly or indi- 
rectly." These cells or nodes, in the social-protest movement, 
are local groups ranging from a handful of members to hun- 
dreds. Many form for a single task and are here today, gone 

Each segment of a SPIN is self-sufficient. You can't destroy 
the network by destroying a single leader or some vital organ. 
The center — the heart — of the network is everywhere. A 
bureaucracy is as weak as its weakest link. In a network, many 
persons can take over the function of others. This characteristic 
is also like the brain's plasticity, with an overlap of functions so 
that new regions can take over for damaged cells. 

Just as a bureaucracy is less than the sum of its parts, a 

Right Power 217 

network is many times greater than the sum of its parts. This is 
a source of power never before tapped in history: multiple 
self-sufficient social movements linked for a whole array of 
goals whose accomplishment would transform every aspect of 
contemporary life. 3 

These networks, Gerlach has suggested, produce valuable 
local mutations. News of successful experiments travels swiftly 
across the movement linkages, and they are widely adopted. 

When the anthropologists first observed the networks, they 
thought they were leaderless. In reality, Gerlach said, "There is 
not a dearth of leadership but an embarrassment of riches." 
The leadership passes from person to person, depending on 
the needs of the moment. 

Because SPINs are so qualitatively different in organization 
and impact from bureaucracies, Hine said, most people don't 
see them — or think they are conspiracies. Often networks take 
similar action without conferring with each other simply be- 
cause they share so many assumptions. It might also be said 
that the shared assumptions are the collusion. 

The Aquarian Conspiracy is, in effect, a SPIN of SPINs, a 
network of many networks aimed at social transformation. The 
Aquarian Conspiracy is indeed loose, segmented, evolu- 
tionary, redundant. Its center is everywhere. Although many 
social movements and mutual-help groups are represented in 
its alliances, its life does not hinge on any of them. 

It cannot be disengaged because it is a manifestation of the 
change in people. 

What do the networks want? Many different things, of 
course. Not only are no two networks alike; a single network 
changes over time because it reflects the fluctuating needs and 
interests of its members. But the essential intent is the redis- 
tribution of power. 

The environmentalist groups, for example, want humankind 
to "live lightly on the earth," stewards of nature rather than 
exploiters or dominators. Spiritually and psychologically 
oriented networks are seeking the power that flows from in- 

3 The League of Nations and the United Nations, Hine said, "failed because 
they were built upon the very form of social organization they were designed to 
supersede — the nation-state." Their creators were unable to break out of the 
cultural assumption that all organizations must be bureaucratic. The an- 
thropologists found a parallel between the networks for social change and the 
emerging supranational web of corporations. Another anthropologist, Alvin 
Wolf, had suggested that this new economic network transcends the nation- 
states. Ironically, it might do more to eliminate war than all the direct 
peacekeeping efforts in history. 

218 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

ward integration, reclaiming authority for disenfranchised 
parts of the self. Educational networks are trying to empower 
the learner by identifying resources. Health networks want to 
shift the old power balance between institutionalized medicine 
and personal responsibility. Other groups rechannel economic 
power by boycotts, barter, cooperative buying, and business 

From the simplest neighborhood or office networks (food 
co-ops, car pools, shared child care) people tend to move to 
more ephemeral or abstract sharing, such as expertise or infor- 
mation. Mutual-help and self-help networks are more intimate 
and therefore a more powerful transformative force. According 
to the National Self-Help Clearinghouse associated with the 
City University of New York, around fifteen million Americans 
now belong to networks in which people help each other deal 
with such diverse problems as retirement, widowhood, over- 
weight, divorce, child abuse, drug abuse, gambling, emotional 
disorders, handicaps, political action, environmentalism, the 
death of a child. Such groups carefully keep from becoming too 
"professionalized” for fear that a hierarchy of authority may 
develop and their whole purpose would be defeated. For the 
mutuality is essential. It is in helping others that one is helped. 

The British Broadcasting Corporation created a television 
series, "Grapevine: The Self-Help Show," to help people find 
appropriate networks. There are national and state clearing- 
houses for self-help networks, associations of self-help groups, 
and recently a self-help fair was held in Boston. Among the 
groups mentioned in a single issue of Self-Help Reporter were 
networks for unemployed persons over forty, parents of 
prematures, women recovering from mastectomies, families 
and friends of missing persons, and the survivors of suicide 

The formation of these groups, said anthropologist Leonard 
Borman, director of the Self-Help Institute in Evanston, Il- 
linois, "represents in part a desire by people who face similar 
problems to assume responsibility for their own bodies, minds, 
and behavior — and to help others do the same." 

Self-help networks, one assessment noted, are usually sup- 
ported internally rather than by appeals to the public; they 
have no professional leadership, they are inclusive (no strict 
guidelines for membership), local, innovative, nonideological; 
and they emphasize greater self-awareness and a fuller, freer 
emotional life. Such organizations prove the potential of even 

Right Power 219 

the most vulnerable members of society, as in the remarkable 
success of the ex-junkies at Delaney Street in San Francisco 
helping other addicts rehabilitate themselves. 

One network, the Linkage, started by Robert Theobald, is 
international, computerized, and primarily conducted by cor- 
respondence. Its members introduce themselves via statements 
about their work and interests. These statements are repro- 
duced by Theobald's service, Participation Publishers, and cir- 
culated by mail from Wickenburg, Arizona, for a small yearly 
fee. “Our operating assumption," Theobald said, “is that we 
are right now in the middle of a stress period caused by the 
ever more rapid collapse of the industrial era. We are looking 
for ways to aid in the necessary transformation. Many people 
would like to make this transformation. . . . We are trying to find 
ways to help people make the required shift." 

Personal statements that went out in a single mailing suggest 
the variety of backgrounds. Included were a military communi- 
cations analyst, two political scientists, a nurse, two doctors, a 
historian, a Presbyterian minister, an educator, a nuclear 
physicist, an engineer. Their concerns included paradigm 
shifts, radical social transformation, personal mystical expe- 
riences, appropriate technology, decentralization, the bridging 
of East and West, intentional communities, voluntary simplic- 
ity, organization models built on trust and communication, 
“creative ways we can help each other," "conscious tech- 
nology," power and freedom in relationships, "making a 

One participant spoke of allies he found in his own commun- 
ity: "Having seen ourselves as loners, we're forming a network 
with new visions for this city." One described the linkage as "a 
sea-anchor, moderating the effects of other forces." 

A clergyman sent a list of publications and organizations in 
England, in case anyone in the network should visit there 
and wish to find "like-minded people." Two described their 
own extensive networks. An educational consultant said, "In 
our frenetic world, I want to learn how to hear whispers again, 
with my family and others who are searching." From 

We are moving into a new age, requiring an entirely differ- 
ent way of looking at things The modern age is over. 

But civilization needs new lines of demarcation. Can we 
etch in new forms fast enough? 

220 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

Linkage offers a starting point. For the first time in his- 
tory, can people who have never met become a " we " just 
because they want to? 

A professor of business management wrote, "On my mind is a 
larger question of using the wealth and resources of business to 
support the transformation rather than work against it." 

In summer 1979 Linkage mail increased dramatically. Mem- 
bers were expressing a growing need to communicate their 
transformative vision beyond the network. Theobald wrote the 
members of his sense that "we are moving into the time when 
further activities could be catalyzed." Significantly, many 
members were asking for "sub-linkages," names of others in 
their geographical area with whom they could work on specific 
projects. This need for action in small groups is characteristic of 
the Aquarian Conspiracy. 

Theobald is what the Open Network News, published in Den- 
ver, calls a "weaver," a person who designs open networks, 
who sees patterns and connections, making the network more 
effective. Not only are individuals weavers, but so are some 
publications and even businesses. 

Another network that functions primarily through the mails, 
like Linkage, is the Forum for Correspondence and Contact, 
founded in 1968 by such luminaries as Viktor Frankl, Arthur 
Koestler, Roberto Assagioli, Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Abraham 
Maslow, Gunnar Myrdal, E. F. Schumacher, and Paolo Soleri. 
The Forum's purpose, as expressed in a recent invitation to 

We have identified persons associated with some of these 
vital new clusters of activity (human-centered, future-ori- 
ented) and are trying to stimulate various explorations 

They are all central to what is variously described as new 
ways of humankind, transformation of man and society, 
holistic growth, etc. 

The Association for Humanistic Psychology offers a network- 
ing service. Any member may propose a networking project — 
compiling a directory of those interested in a particular subject, 
publishing a newsletter for that interest group, creating a 

Some networks, like the Renascence Project in Kansas City 
and Briarpatch in Northern California, link entrepreneurs. 
These will be discussed further in Chapter 10. A network in 

Right Power 221 

San Jose, California, the Mid-Peninsula Conversion Project, 
was founded to find alternative production for defense indus- 
tries, a practical step toward disarmament. People Index in 
Fairfield, California, calls itself "a human switchboard helping 

people find others with the same goals We want people to 

connect more directly with each other. Got a project you can't 
do alone? Are you a resource for others? What future do you 
want to be a part of — and help create? Join the network of 
people for a new world." 

And there are countless informal alliances, crisscrossing 
every institution and organization — for example, groups of 
sympathetic nurses and doctors in a hospital, faculty members 
and students in a university. Ready-made networks emerge 
from existing organiztions, sometimes as "special interest 
groups" given subdivision status in professional associations, 
but more often just an informal alliance of those whose think- 
ing has shifted into a larger paradigm. Humanistically oriented 
psychologists in the American Psychological Association, 
World Future Society members more interested in conscious- 
ness than hard technology, and social-transformation advo- 
cates within the Association for Humanistic Psychology have 
formed effective informal internal networks. They often suc- 
ceed in changing the emphasis in the larger organization's 
official publication; they bring in more innovative speakers for 
programs, run for office, and otherwise break the hold of the 
thinking of the old guard. The collusion is so low-key that no 
one notices, and there is usually no significant struggle among 
network members for offices or honors. 


Some political scientists have speculated on the formation of 
a "centrist" party, one that might reflect both humanistic prin- 
ciples and economic freedom. Because political parties are 
precisely the kind of conventional social structure that is not 
working well, it seems unlikely that any will emerge from the 
Aquarian Conspiracy or from any of the social movements now 
afoot. The energy expended to launch a new party and field 
candidates against entrenched parties would divert energy 
from enterprises with a better pay-off. 

There are new, more imaginative and rewarding sources of 
the power needed for social transformation. We have already 
talked about the power of the person, inherent in the transforma- 

222 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

tive process — the discovery that any of us is “the difference in 
the world." We have talked about the power of the network, the 
form of catalyzing and mobilizing people all over the world. 

The power of paying attention, of discovering what works, of 
facing and transforming conflict, gives one the advantage of 
being wide awake even in the company of those hooked on our 
social painkillers: distraction, denial, cynicism. The deliberate 
transformation of stress is a new factor in history. 

So is the power of self-knowledge. Until technology freed us 
from the struggle to survive, few had the time or opportunity to 
look within to explore the psyche. Self-knowledge leads to a 
profound change in the individual's definition of power. As the 
ego diminishes, so does the need to dominate, to win. Not 
engaging in power games becomes a kind of natural power. 
There is a liberation of the energy formerly channeled into anx- 
ious competition: the power of letting go. 

The power of flexibility allows the potential opponent to be- 
come part of the solution to the problem, much as the practi- 
tioner of aikido flows with the energy of an opponent. This 
political aikido channels energy into an intended direction, in 
part by identifying the needs of potential adversaries. It helps 
these adversaries make the transition, whereas frontal attack 
hardens their position. 

In his 1967 book. Step to Man, John Platt proposed the use of 
natural strategies for effecting social transformation. Work with 
the grain, he said. Find the focus of power. Work out the path 
of least dislocation. Be a catalyst. Too often vocal minorities 
expend their energies on firm friends or firm opponents rather 
than on those ripe for persuasion. “The main business of an 
enlightened minority is not fighting the majority but showing 
them how." 

Any minority that understands the power of the seed crystal, 
of amplifying an idea, can quickly assume influence beyond its 
numbers. Work with technology and natural social forms, not 
against them, Platt urged. Be flexible. A brittle system will 
allow stresses to build until some part of the structure breaks 
down suddenly or dangerously. 

Matt Taylor, founder of the Renascence Project, compared 
social reordering to the turning of a ship. In the past, people 
have tried to put the rudder on the front of the ship when 
tackling social issues, applying direction and pressure at the 
wrong places. “You can steer a large organization with subtle 

The power of communication , growing all the time, enables the 

Right Power 223 

rapid transmission of new ideas, a contagion of visions, good 
questions, experiments, images. Economist Kenneth Boulding 
once said that a change which might take a generation to ac- 
complish in a nonliterate society can occur in days in a culture 
with mass communication. 

The power of decentralization derives from the flow of new im- 
ages, ideas, and energy to all parts of the body politic. Concen- 
trations of power are as unnatural and deadly as a blood clot or 
an ungrounded electrical line. 

Aldous Huxley saw decentralization as the alternative to Left 
and Right. In a letter to a friend at the close of World War II, he 

As H. G. Wells once remarked, the mind of the Universe is 
able to count above two. The dilemmas of the artist- 
intellectual and of the political theorist have more than two 
horns. Between ivory towerism on the one hand and direct 
political action on the other lies the alternative of spiritu- 
ality. And between the totalitarian fascism and totalitarian 
socialism lies the alternative of decentralism and coopera- 
tive enterprise — the economic-political system most natu- 
ral to spirituality. 

The majority of intellectuals at the present time recog- 
nize only two alternatives in their situation and opt for one 
or the other 

With typical insight, Huxley had written earlier to his brother 
Julian that social transformation — “a direction of the power of 
the state, self-government, decentralization" — could best be 
accomplished oy simultaneous attack along all fronts: eco- 
nomic, political, educational, psychological. H. G. Wells also 
insisted that change must occur in all parts of society at once, 
not one institution at a time. 

This view parallels transformation in natural systems, the 
sudden change of the dissipative structure. The jump into a 
new order is sudden, all or nothing. Even at the most simple- 
minded level, we can see that any aspect of social transforma- 
tion has a ripple effect. The individual who has learned to take 
responsibility for his own health is likely to become more in- 
terested in political aspects of medicine, environment, the role 
of learning in health and disease, the beneficial or deadly as- 
pects of relationships and work, and so on. This is the power of a 
new paradigm, a perspective that politicizes even those who 
have had no interest in conventional politics. 

224 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

"A radical consciousness," said Gurtov, "based on shared 
feelings and needs, is far more likely to hold than radical ideol- 
ogy." You can't defect from an insight; you can't unsee what 
you have seen. 

The power of process recognizes that the very act of reclaiming 
our autonomy is transformative. Every step we take on the 
road of freedom and responsibility makes the next step easier. 
Goals, programs, and timetables are less important than the 
engagement itself. As Gandhi put it, "The goal ever recedes 
from us. . . . Salvation lies in the effort, not in the attainment. 
Full effort is full victory." 

The power of uncertainty makes it easier to innovate, experi- 
ment, risk. As Theobald said, "There is no riskless route into 
the future; we must choose which set of risks we wish to run." 
Writing in a network journal, philosopher Jay Ogilvy coined 
the term "parapolitical" to describe the avocational involve- 
ment in politics that comes from commitment to a new vision: 

If we wish to break out of the iron cage of a totally adminis- 
tered society, then our imaginations must be free enough 
to make mistakes. If we want to play, some games we will 
lose. But the stakes are nothing less than the flickering life 
of the human spirit; so some of us would risk losing rather 
than not play at all. 

We become less surprised when surprising things happen. 
After all, in a creative universe, even an apparent disaster may 
prove to be serendipity. This viewpoint is comfortable with 
ambiguity. It assumes that most issues are tricky and does not 
pretend to resolve once and for all that which is in perpetual 
flux. The politician or citizen willing to acknowledge uncer- 
tainty is free to learn, err, adapt, invent, and go back to the 
drawing board again and again. 

The power of the whole gathers in all the power lost by frag- 
mentation and ignorance. It enhances our collective options by 
drawing on the talents and ideas of those who might not have 
been noticed or appreciated in the past. A society that rewards 
the diversity and gifts of all its citizens will reap a richer harvest 
than a conformist society. 

The power of the alternative lies in recognizing that we have 
more choices than we once thought. By imagining new possi- 
bilities, we can say no to the suffocating, unacceptable options 
we confronted in the past. And just as personal change comes 

Right Power 225 

from becoming conscious of our own thought processes, seeing 
that we can choose how to react in a given situation, awakening 
to the influences of our conditioning, a society can discover 
collectively that "it doesn't have to be that way." A culture can 
become aware of itself, its own conditioning. 

Too often it did not even occur to us that we had a choice. In 
discussing what he calls "alternativism," Erich Fromm said that 
most people fail because "they do not wake and see when they 
stand at a fork in the road and have to decide." 

As increasing numbers of people come to a sense of au- 
tonomy, they respect the choices of others. At the 1977 
Women's Year convention, many debates died away as the 
audience began to chant: "Choice, choice, choice. ..." Even if 
you don't want a particular lifestyle or philosophy for yourself, 
they were saying, you can allow others their options. 

We are all surrounded by limits of a kind, Tocqueville said, 
"but within that circle we are powerful and free." 

The power of intuition can be extended from the individual to a 
group. A conference brochure invited, "Come, let us drink at 
the well of collective intuition." Groups of the Aquarian Con- 
spiracy often listen for inward guidance, like Quakers seeking 
inner light at a meeting. Rather than charting their activities 
exclusively by logic, they seek a kind of consensual intuition. 
They report a sense of finding their direction as a group rather 
than inventing it. It is as if teams of archeologists were digging 
not for the past but for the future. 

The power of vocation is a kind of collective sense of destiny — 
not a mapped-out myth but a search for meaning, a tacit un- 
derstanding that people and leaders believe in something 
beyond material success, beyond nationalism, beyond quick 

As spiritual and humanistic values are coming to the fore, a 
few politicians are struggling to articulate this shift. 

The power of withdrawal, psychological as well as economic, 
comes from the recognition that we can take back the power we 
have given others. Teilhard said, "We have become aware that, 
in the great game being played, we are the players as well as 
the cards and the stakes. Nothing can go on if we leave the 
table. Neither can any power force us to remain." 

Ingenious economic boycotts are devised. Large national or- 
ganizations attempt to influence policy (as in the ratification of 
the Equal Rights Amendment) by threatening not to hold their 
annual meetings in certain locales. Nutrition-oriented groups 

226 The Aquarian Conspiraq/ 

boycott the products of manufacturers who aggressively mar- 
ket infant formulas in developing countries where infant mor- 
tality is worsened by artificial feeding. Community groups pro- 
test red-lining — the refusal of lenders to grant mortgages in 
certain areas — by withdrawing their savings from neighbor- 
hood banks and savings and loan companies until they agree to 
invest a specific dollar amount in the community. 

All our high priests — doctors, scientists, bureaucrats, politi- 
cians, churchmen, educators — are being defrocked at once. 
Rushing in where angels fear to tread, we are challenging old 
laws, proposing new ones, lobbying and boycotting, wise now 
to the hidden powers of democracy. "We are challenging the 
legitimacy of entire systems," said Willis Harman. "The citizen 
grants legitimacy to any institution — or withholds it." 


"Women hold up half the sky," says a Chinese proverb. 
Women represent the greatest single force for political renewal 
in a civilization thoroughly out of balance. Just as individuals 
are enriched by developing both the masculine and feminine 
sides of the self (independence and nurturance, intellect and 
intuition), so the society is benefiting from a change in the 
balance of power between the sexes. 

The power of women is the powder keg of our time. As 
women enlarge their influence in policymaking and govern- 
ment, their yin perspective will push out the boundaries of the 
old yang paradigm. Women are neurologically more flexible 
than men, and they have had cultural permission to be more 
intuitive, sensitive, feeling. Their natural milieu has been com- 
plexity, change, nurturance, affiliation, a more fluid sense 
of time. 

The shift from militant feminism is evident in recent state- 
ments like that of Patricia Mische in a monograph. Women and 
Power. Instead of asking for a piece of the pie men have had all 
along, she said, "we should be trying to create quite another 
pie." Human affairs will not be advanced by the assimilation of 
more and more women into a literally man-made world. 
Rather, women and men together can create a new future. 
Women have been torn between their fear of powerlessness on 
the one hand and a fear of the capacity for destruction on the 
other: "We tend to block out both fears — the one because pow- 
erlessness is too painful to confront, the other because we as- 
sociate power with evil drives." 

Women are now learning to use their power openly, she 

Right Power 227 

said, exercising what Rollo May called “integrative power" 
rather than the coy or manipulative ways of the past. 

Integrative power recognizes that men as well as women 
have been the victims of history and narrowly defined 
roles. ... It is a caring form of power — power aligned with 

Work for social justice, for peace, for overcoming pov- 
erty and alienation, for building a more truly humanizing 
future ... is not even possible without a combination of 
love and power. Love itself is not possible without power 
or self-assertion. And power without love is easily reduced 
to manipulation and exploitation. 

We cannot make somebody else's contribution to the 
ongoing shaping of history. Nor can anyone else make 
ours. Each of us is here for a purpose, each life has signifi- 
cance and meaning. This meaning — whatever it is — cannot 
be realized if we abdicate our powers 

The values that have been labeled feminine — com- 
passion, cooperation, patience — are very badly needed in 
giving birth to and nurturing a new era in human history. 

Lou Harris of the Harris Poll said that women are far ahead of 
men in pushing for basic human qualities; they are more dedi- 
cated to peace and opposed to war, more concerned over child 
abuse, deeply moved by what he called "the pall of violence. 
Women are playing for keeps and are a formidable new part of 
the political scene." 

If we redefine leadership, we can think differently about 
women in leadership roles. James MacGregor Bums called it a 
"male bias" that sees leadership as mere command or control, 
whereas it is properly the engagement and mobilization of 
human aspirations. As we become more aware of the true na- 
ture of leadership, he said, "women will be more readily rec- 
ognized as leaders, and men will change their own leadership 

Thinking itself will be transformed, poet Adrienne Rich said. 
Women can bring to the society the very qualities necessary to 
alter life, a more deeply sustaining relationship to the universe. 
"Sexuality, politics, intelligence, power, motherhood, work, 
community, intimacy, will develop new meanings." 

The idea that women might rescue a failing society is not 
new. As early as 1890 Havelock Ellis saw a coming "invasion" 
of women into leadership as a source of renewal comparable to 
that new life a wave of barbarians brings to an effete and de- 

228 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

generate civilization. Masculine approaches to social organiza- 
tion had reached a dead end, he said. Women, with then- 
greater sensitivity to relationships and social form, might de- 
vise ways to transcend conflict and confrontation. 

“The rise of women to their fair share of power is certain," 
Ellis said. "... I find it an unfailing source of hope." 

In 1916 psychologist George Stratton of the University of 
Southern California was describing the inherent superiority of 
female brains in seeing the whole. Writing on "Feminism and 
Psychology" in Century Magazine he expressed the hope that 
women would dispel masculine illusions when they took their 
rightful place in society. Men, he said, tend to fix on cogs 
instead of flesh and blood. Beginning with a generous wonder 
at nature, they end up with fascination for the tool — the scien- 
tific instrument. They establish governments to give order to 
life, then end up coveting the functions of government more 
than life. "The masculine genius for organization," Stratton 
said, "needs women's sense of the heart of things, not the 

Recently a woman psychologist suggested that human 
survival may require that the private virtues of women go pub- 
lic. "Perhaps the women's movement is part of an evolutionary 
process that will keep us from going the way of the dinosaur 
and the dodo." 

Wherever the Aquarian Conspiracy is at work, perpetrating 
holistic health or creative science or transpersonal psychology, 
women are represented in far greater numbers than they are in 
the establishment. For example, one-third of the founding 
members of a new holistic medical organization were women, 
compared to the percentage of women physicians in the United 
States (8.3 percent). Men in such organizations are not only 
comfortable with women in leadership roles but openly emu- 
late such yin qualities as integration, empathy, reconciliation. 
They see in women a greater sensitivity to time and season, 
intuition about direction, an ability to wait. "If satyagraha is to 
be the mode of the future," Gandhi once said, "then the future 
belongs to women." 


The political perspective of the Aquarian Conspiracy is best 
described as a kind of Radical Center. It is not neutral, not 

Right Power 229 

middle-of-the-road, but a view of the whole road. From this 
vantage point, we can see that the various schools of thought 
on any one issue — political or otherwise — include valuable con- 
tributions along with error and exaggeration. 

As it was expressed in an editorial in the British journal. The 
New Humanity: 

We are neither right nor left but uplifted forward. The New 
Humanity advocates a new kind of politics. . . . Governance 
must develop a framework, not a rigid structure, and 
we must find unity within our immense and wonderful 

At this point in human evolution there can be no way 
out of the global political stalemate unless there is first, 
and fast, a new humanity with a changed psychology. 
That new psychology is developing, a new humanity is 

Most historical movements have written their last will and 
testament along with their manifesto. They have known more 
surely what they oppose than what they are. By taking a firm 
position, they trigger an inevitable countermotion, one that will 
disorient their fragile identity almost at once. Then rapid 
metamorphosis and self-betrayal: pacifists who become vio- 
lent, law-and-order advocates who trample law and order, pa- 
triots who undo liberties, "people's revolutions" that empower 
new elites, new movements in the arts that become as rigid as 
their predecessors, romantic ideals that lead to genocide. 

Anthropologist Edward Hall lamented our cultural inability 
to reconcile or include divergent views within one frame of 
reference. We are so indoctrinated by our right/ wrong, win / 
lose, all/nothing habits that we keep putting all our half-truths 
into two piles: truth versus lies, Marxism versus capitalism, 
science versus religion, romance versus realism— the list goes 
on and on. We act as though either Freud or B. F. Skinner had 
to be right about human behavior, as Hall noted, when in fact 
"both work and are right when placed in proper perspective." 

Partial viewpoints force us into artificial choices, and our 
lives are caught in the crossfire. Quick, choose! Do you want 
your politician to be compassionate or fiscally responsible? 
Should doctors be humane or skillful? Should schools pamper 
children or spank them? 

The rare successful reforms in history — the durable Constitu- 

230 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

tion, for example — synthesize. They blend old and new values. 
Dynamic tension, in the form of the system of checks and bal- 
ances, was built into the paradigm of democracy. Whatever its 
flaws, the framework has proved amazingly resilient. 

When nearly two hundred of the most effective Aquarian 
Conspirators were asked to categorize themselves politically on 
a questionnaire, many expressed great frustration. Some 
checked off every box — radical, liberal, centrist, conser- 
vative — with apologies. Some drew arrows across the spec- 
trum. Others wrote marginal notes: “Liberal but . . ." “Radical 
on some issues, conservative on others." “These categories 
don't apply." “Radical but not in the usual sense." “Choices 
too linear." “Old categories are useless." 

One, a British-born economist, drew a circular spectrum, 
saying that the United States has a reservoir of flexibility in its 
political system. “It has not yet polarized into the sterile left- 
right axis now compounding Britain's problems. The forces in 
the United States are circular: corporations, trade associations, 
smaller businesses, cults, environmentalists, etc." 

Politicians of the Radical Center are easily misunderstood 
and unusually vulnerable to attack, regardless of their accom- 
plishments, because they don't take strident positions. Their 
high tolerance of ambiguity and their willingness to change 
their minds leave them open to accusations of being arbitrary, 
inconsistent, uncertain, or even devious. 

Traditionally, we have wanted to identify our friends and 
enemies. Lobbies, political realities, and the media, playing 
both sides against each other, usually force politicians into tak- 
ing black-and-white positions. But sooner than we may sup- 
pose, Radical Center will be a viable point of view. The rising 
number of new movements, all demonstrating and pressuring, 
combined with traditional special-interest lobbies, may finally 
force politicians to seek a middle way through the mine field. 
Politicians may finally have no choice but to transcend the 
either-or dilemma. 

Historian Henry Steele Commager urged a restoration of the 
traditional meanings to the terms “conservative" and “liberal." 
We can all work to save that which is of value, and we can all be 
free to innovate and change. “How fortunate if we could accept 
once again that we are all republicans, we are all demo- 
crats . . . we are all conservatives, we are all liberals." Willis 
Harman emphasized that the concept of a transcendental, ul- 
timately responsible self is central to the entire theory of demo- 

Right Power 231 

era tic government. Under those values the nation can become 
reconciled. “Conservatives will insist that we keep and respect 
our national precepts. Radicals will insist that we live up 
to them." 

It is hard, often impossible, to implement a new political 
perspective in an old system crisscrossed with old alliances, 
debts, and enmities and riddled with interests desperately 
guarding the status quo. The first politicians groping for the 
Radical Center, like scientists who make “premature dis- 
coveries," may fail or have only a small impact. But they are 
a beginning. 

In the long run, it is the evolving Radical-Center constit- 
uency that will engender increasing numbers of candidates and 
elect some of them to office. This new constituency will support 
those who seem likely to create and conserve. It will admire 
them for refusing to make simplistic choices. It will encourage 
them to foster the kind of growth that charts and figures cannot 
measure. As in the model of Burns, the followers will help 
transform the leaders — those leaders who sense the shift to 
higher needs. 

During the 1976 presidential primaries, political commen- 
tators observed that both Jimmy Carter and Jerry Brown drew 
on “protest of the center" constituencies and seemed to sense 
an unarticulated trend. Brown once remarked, “We're going to 
go left and right at the same time," and the Los Angeles Times 
called him "our liberal-moderate-conservative-governor," both 
pragmatist and visionary. Unfortunately, the apparent paradox 
in the approaches of both Brown and Carter was more often 
attacked than supported, and both began to resort more and 
more often to politics as usual. 

In his study of cultural awakenings, William McLoughlin 
said that Carter is subject to too many countervailing pressures 
to undertake an effective restructuring; consensus must first be 
reached at grass roots. "Some elements of [his] world view may 
indeed be part of the new consensus — his casual style, his rec- 
ognition that America must restrain its power, his sense of 
common humanity, his concern for ecology, his recognition 
that the 'American way of life' is culturally limited and needs to 
be judged by some transcendent values." But our political 
leaders have never been the prophets of new light, in 
McLoughlin's judgment. "They may implement it but they do 
not originate it." 

He foresees that at some future point, no earlier than the 

232 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

1990s, a consensus will emerge that will thrust into political 
leadership a president with a platform committed to funda- 
mental restructuring. It will reflect the new belief system, with 
its greater respect for nature, for others, for craftsmanship, and 
for success measured in terms of friendship and empathy, not 
money or status. 

The reason an awakening takes a generation or more to 
work itself out is that it must grow with the young; it must 
escape the enculturation of the old ways. It is not worth- 
while to ask who the prophet of this awakening is or to 
search for new ideological blueprints in the work of the 
learned. Revitalization is growing up around us in our 
children, who are both more innocent and more knowing 
than their parents and grandparents. It is their world that 
has yet to be reborn. 

A commitment to Radical Center doesn't work as a sometime 


Predictably, citizen involvement in the "politics of transforma- 
tion" is more evident in California than elsewhere, and a 
number of legislators have participated in consciousness- 
oriented conferences and networks. In 1976 a coalition of state 
legislators, members of Congress, and citizens formed a 
statewide organization. Self Determination. The founders of 
this "personal/political" network said in their invitation to join: 

Self Determination proposes a practical and powerful al- 
ternative to cynicism: changing both ourselves and society 
by transforming the most basic myth by which we live — 
our assumptions about our nature and potential. . . . 

Such a transformation is already happening in America. Many 
are now living a positive vision of self and society. We 
want now to give it vital public visibility. We are develop- 
ing principles of social action and institutional change 
based upon a faithful vision of who we are and who we 
can be. 

Much of life is self-fulfilling prophecy. The citizen who 
takes responsibility for his/her own self-awareness and 

Right Power 233 

self-determination will become visionary, energetic, and 
enduring. . . . 

The network does not lobby, does not focus on particular is- 
sues, but promotes interaction between persons and institu- 
tions “to empower." Psychologist Carl Rogers pointed out 
that Self Determination is significant "whether it succeeds or 
falters. ... A totally new type of political force is being bom. 
Even in its process, it is person-centered. No one person is in 

charge, no big name It is not a drive for power." 

The new power manifests itself through the emergence of a 
new kind of person, "a pattern which has not been seen before 
except perhaps in rare individuals." This is a new phenome- 
non, Rogers said. "We've had a few Thoreaus, but never hun- 
dreds of thousands of people, young and old alike, willing to 
obey some laws and disobey others on the basis of their own 
personal moral judgment." These new people refuse to put up 
with order for order's sake. They take action quietly, without 
fanfare, "openly but without defiance." They act in small, 
nonhierarchical groups to humanize institutions from the in- 
side. They ignore meaningless rules, exhibiting what Rogers 
calls "an Elizabethan quality of adventure — everything is pos- 
sible These emerging persons are neither power-hungry 

nor achievement-hungry. When they seek power, it is for other 
than purely selfish purposes." 

These are not frightening trends but exciting ones, he said. 
"In spite of the darkness of the present, the culture may be on 
the verge of a great evolutionary-revolutionary leap." 

John Vasconcellos, a California state assemblyman from San 
Jose, was instrumental in the founding of Self Determination. 
To many, not only in California but elsewhere, Vasconcellos 
has come to represent a prototype of the new politician. But he 
would be the first to warn that there is no such creature. "The 
politics we do is who we are," he has frequently said. Your life 
makes your political statement, and each is different. 

He has been responsible for an impressive body of California 
legislation aimed at humanizing education and medicine, but 
he is as quick to point out the failures and disappointments of 
each legislative session as the successes. There is none of the 
self-congratulation one expects from politicians. The emergent 
paradigm of power and politics is evident in Vasconcellos's 
public statements: 

You could change all the political leaders, rules, and in- 

234 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

stitutions tomorrow, but if we don't change ourselves — if 
we keep carrying all our fears, denials, and self-repression 
in our minds and bodies — then we would live no differ- 

Government is us — and it is as we choose it to be. We 
elect leaders who are close to where we are in terms of 
vision. We need to see to it that our institutions, including 
government, become peopled by those who share our 
struggle, our vision about this human transformation. 

Two hundred years ago the major public issue in America 
was freedom from political bondage, from being owned as a 
nation by another nation. A century later the Civil War was 
fought for freedom from physical bondage. "In the last fifteen 
years we have witnessed a third type of revolution — the libera- 
tion of one's body, mind, feelings. There are literally millions 
saying, 'I want to be who I am, and I want to be whole.'" 

The once-silent majority learned lessons in power from the 
student uprisings of the 1960s, Vasconcellos believes. 

The real political revolutionary act is to enable someone to 
see something he has not been able to see before. 

There is a great movement on. I think it is unstoppable. 
When you add together all those in this country who are 
attempting to become more aware and whole, you realize 
there are millions involved in this new revolution. Yet we 
have not yet seen a clear enough statement or theory to 
help us understand the signficance of this event — to help 
it along. 

At a conference on holistic health, Vasconcellos urged par- 
ticipants to descend en masse on Sacramento. "We're not giv- 
ing our power away any more," he said. "We're moving from 
'mystique' and expertise." Citing evidence of "consciousness 
in the Capitol," he quoted new state educational guidelines 
emphasizing the uniqueness and potential of each child, the 
importance of self-esteem and self-awareness. The state has 
funded research on left- and right-brain perceptual modes as 
they relate to education, pilot projects on humanizing the 
workplace, the feasibility of hospices (humane centers for the 
care of the terminally ill). Vasconcellos brought obstetrician 
Frederick Leboyer, author of Birth Without Violence, to Sac- 
ramento to meet legislators and urge the study of more appro- 

Right Power 235 

priate birth practices in the state. He urged Brown and David 
Saxon, president of the University of California, to establish a 
series of conferences on the nine campuses of the university, to 
address the transformation of thinking about health care, ag- 
ing, education, death and dying, birth, and other topics. 

When Brown expressed an interest in learning more about 
holistic medicine, Vasconcellos arranged for a group to meet 
with him to discuss the new medical paradigm; a dozen people 
talked in Brown's apartment until early morning about the pos- 
sibilities. Later Brown issued the formal invitations to a state 
conference on the new concepts in medicine which .Vasconcel- 
los helped organize. 

The invitation to the conference, "Health Care: Whose Re- 
sponsibility?" reflected the need to disperse power from pater- 
nal agencies to the community: 

New and better forums are needed to work on these vital 
questions — interdisciplinary forums where leaders of gov- 
ernment, directors of foundations, representatives of 
health professions associations, university researchers, 
philosophers, educators, providers, bureaucrats, and 
humanists can reason together, working through agree- 
ments and disagreements toward the emergence of new 
health policies more directly related to today's changing 
social values and needs. 

Vasconcellos was chief author of a 1979 bill establishing the 
California Commission on Crime Control and Violence Preven- 
tion, whose charge is to study and analyze the research relating 
to the origins of mental health. 


In bureaucracies, in every corner of government, human beings 
conspire for change. An Aquarian Conspirator at the cabinet 
level of the United States government helped foster de- 
partmental ‘change by setting up staff workshops in human 
development, saying, "If you want to change bureaucracies, 
you have to first change bureaucrats." 

In April 1979 representatives of the United States Depart- 
ments of Commerce, Energy, and the Interior met with leaders 
of the Association for Humanistic Psychology to discuss the 

236 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

implications of changing values and the prospects for social 
change, a meeting praised by the Washington Post as an effort by 
bureaucrats to enlarge their vision. 

A government, after all, is not a "they." In a bureaucracy 
there are many individuals with creative programs and new 
paradigms in their peddler's packs, just waiting for a respon- 
sive administration or the opportune moment. One veteran 
bureaucrat at the National Institute of Mental Health said, 
"There are a lot of us in the woodwork." He was referring to a 
loose coalition of conspirators in agencies and on Congres- 
sional staffs. Within the Department of Health, Education and 
Welfare, innovators have created informal rap groups to share 
their strategies for slipping new ideas into a resistant system 
and to give each other moral support. 

Concepts that might otherwise appear "far out" can be given 
legitimacy by a single federally funded program. The grant- 
making apparatus of government determines fashion in some 
research fields. This aura of legitimacy is fostered here and 
there by conspirator-bureaucrats. 

Government represents an incalculably large source of en- 
ergy: people, money, authority. Political aikido, the power that 
comes from turning a potential opponent's energy to one's own 
advantage, can include the use of government funds, even de- 
fense grants, for humanistically oriented research and pilot pro- 
jects. There are several strategies for obtaining such funding. 
Sometimes an attractive alternative is proposed, a more effec- 
tive or economical medical treatment. Often the project is 
nominally orthodox, but a daring question has quietly been 
incorporated into the research design. Sometimes the project 
originates with a sympathetic conspirator-bureaucrat who rec- 
ommends how the proposal should be written and what is 
likely to be approved. Conspirator-politicians sometimes apply 
gentle pressure for the agency funding of such programs. 

Research projects on meditation, biofeedback, psychic 
phenomena, and alternative medical approaches have been 
funded by the Department of Defense. One example of the 
sophisticated use of government energy and authority is a pro- 
ject started by Jay Matteson, a civilian consultant to the United 
States Navy. 

His undertaking was foreshadowed by an earlier project that 
had apparently failed. Several years ago Admiral Elmo Zum- 
walt, then head of United States naval operations, proposed a 
"human goals" program that met considerable resistance from 

Right Power 237 

old-timers in the service. In 1975 a similar program, renamed 
Leadership and Management Training, was introduced. Admi- 
rals and the chief of naval education and training were among 
the attendees, and they endorsed the idea that all company 
commanders receive instruction in human-behavior areas. A 
crackdown on covert maltreatment of recruits was under way 
at the time. 

Under a human-resources management contract let by the 
navy in San Diego, Jay Matteson helped organize an appropri- 
ate course. Matteson knew that he could never get away with 
teaching meditation to the navy. He knew that he was also 
unlikely to get approval for teaching the relaxation-response 
technique adapted by Herbert Benson of Harvard from Tran- 
scendental Meditation. After all, who wanted a relaxed mili- 
tary? But he was convinced that the technique would be the 
most powerful way to engender both the sensitivity to human 
behavior that the navy wanted in its officers and the awareness 
of their rights that it wanted to instill in its recruits. 

The timing was perfect. Another consultant joined him in 
teaching the course, and they also brought in a Florida swim 
coach who had used the technique to train a university team. 
The meditative technique, cleansed of ideology, was a smash. 
Feedback from the company commanders was so favorable that 
the material was incorporated into instructional guides written 
by Matteson and his colleagues. 

The guides have since been adopted for use throughout the 
armed services. Because of the reported value of meditative 
techniques in preventing and treating drug abuse, all basic 
training programs must now include mention of relaxation and 
meditation as alternatives to drug use. A videotape demon- 
strating the relaxing technique is available to all instructors. 

Matteson said later that the acceptability of meditation was 
underscored by the increasing percentage of recruits already 
familiar with the technique. 

With the total program, you see changes happening. Every 
recruit now gets twenty- two hours of human-resource 
management training, including the coping classes. . . . 
The group dynamics includes freely expressing feelings. 
The recruits can tell what they don't like about the Navy. 

They're given a course in “rights and responsibilities" 
where they're taught problem-solving, generalization, and 
other skills. The Navy is saying, let's take more time, give 

238 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

them skill development so they can be critical thinkers in- 
stead of robots. As the skill development progressed, more 
people at higher levels began to buy into the program. 

The recruits are told about the Special Request Chit, a 
grievance form, and reminded that their superiors must 
forward such complaints upstairs. The recruit can see that 
he has power. 

Power has been used to empower others. 

Economist Stahrl Edmunds, in an article in The Futurist, 
proposed possible scenarios for the economic future of the 
United States, suggesting the probable outcomes if we should 
follow the patterns of various governments — the Romans, the 
Greeks, the medieval societies, industrial democracies, the 
sovietization of capitalism (government effort to control the 
economy through spending and taxation) — and, finally, “an 
original American play," a more hopeful alternative en- 
lightened by the mistakes of the past. 

In the latter scenario, the American president in the 1990s 
(who had been a member of the youth movement of the 1960s) 
speaks out for the ratification of new amendments to the Con- 

Two great merits in these amendments commend them- 
selves — the facility for change and the dispersal of power. 
As a president who has wielded massive amounts of 
power, I can say to you that the temptation to retain power 
is great. But the opportunity to recover authority over your 
own lives comes rarely in history. Seize it, my friends, 
seize it as it stands, whatever your reservations, lest the 
opportunity slip from you forever. 

In 1930 the India Congress party challenged the British pro- 
tectorate by raising a flag of independence. As tension grew 
throughout the country, everyone looked to Gandhi for a new 
campaign. As Eknath Easwaran tells it in his stirring memoir, 
Gandhi the Man : 

Finally, after weeks of deliberation, the answer came to 
Gandhi in a dream. It was breath takingly simple. The gov- 
ernment had imposed a law forbidding Indians to make 
their own salt, making them dependent on a British 
monopoly for what is, in a tropical country, a necessity of 

Right Power 239 

life. To Gandhi it was the perfect symbol of colonial exploi- 
tation. He proposed to march with seventy-eight of his 
most trusted followers to the little coastal town of Dandi, 
some two hundred forty miles away, where salt from the 
sea lay free for the taking on the sand. When he gave the 
signal, everyone in India was to act as if the salt laws had 
never been enacted at all. 

... It was an epic march, with the attention of news aud- 
iences everywhere riveted on every stage of the way. . . . 

By the time he reached Dandi, twenty-four days later, his 
nonviolent army had swelled to several thousand. 

Throughout the night of their arrival Gandhi and his 
followers prayed for the strength to resist the violence 
which might easily sweep away so large a crowd. Then, at 
the moment of dawn, they went quietly down to the wa- 
ter, and Gandhi, with thousands of eyes watching every 
gesture, stooped down and picked up a pinch of salt from 
the sand. 

The response was immediate. All along India's coastline 
huge crowds of men, women, and children swept down to 
the sea to gather salt in direct disobedience of the British 
laws. Their contraband salt was auctioned off at premium 
prices to those in the cities who could break the law only 
by buying. The whole country knew it had thrown off its 
chains, and, despite the brutality of the police reprisals, 
the atmosphere was one of nationwide rejoicing. 

No one can grant freedom to anyone else. Gandhi's act, 
however symbolic and inspiring, only liberated those who had 
the courage to take action of their own. 

Like the salt on India's shores, our power is there for the 
taking. It is free, inherent in nature. By the simplest gesture we 
can reclaim it. To the extent that rules and precedents strangle 
our ability to become all we can be, each of us must commit our 
own form of civil disobedience. 

Plato once said that the human race would have no rest from 
its evils until philosophers become kings or kings become 
philosophers. Perhaps there is another option, as increasing 
numbers of people are assuming leadership of their own lives. 
They become their own central power. As the Scandinavian 
proverb says, “In each of us there is a king. Speak to him and 
he will come forth." 

It is the new worldview that gives birth to new politics; new 
power relationships between individuals, between citizens 

240 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

and individuals. We shift as we discover what is real, what is 
fair, what is possible. This is the long-awaited "turning of 
the mind." 

"Start here, now, with yourself," John Platt said in Step to 
Man. "Start here, at this place in the human network. You 
don't have to be rich or influential or brilliant; even fishermen 

can turn the world upside down. If they can, you can All of 

the evolving potentialities of the future are contained in the 
world at this instant." 

Individuals and groups are translating inner discoveries into 
action. The Nobel Peace Prize for 1977 was awarded to "ordi- 
nary men and women" — to the Peace People in Northern Ire- 
land and Amnesty International. "Our world is rushing toward 
disaster," said Mairead Corrigan of the Peace People, "but it's 
not too late to prove the power of love. . . ." From California 
come announcements of new, politically oriented groups: 
Groundswell, "an association of people primarily from the 
consciousness/growth movement, who feel it's time to join 
forces ... to generate social action"; members of a group in Sac- 
ramento describe themselves as "bureaucrats and academi- 
cians who want to coalesce California's transpersonal political 
network" for the rewriting of the state constitution; and New 
Age Caucus urges "decentralized, responsive government." 

Lone consumer activists and free-lance reformers around the 
country, having discovered their power to investigate, pub- 
licize, petition, and sue, find themselves on the evening news 
and in the Sunday newspaper features. Courts and legislatures 
around the country overturn "paternalistic" rules: Dying 
people can die, they can have Laetrile; diabetics and dieters can 
have artificial sweeteners; and you don't have to buckle your 
seat belt if you don't want to. Making you do things for your 
own good is not what it once was. 

"If there is a new politics," said one Aquarian Conspirator, 
the co-founder of a preventive-health network and a treatment 
center for disturbed youngsters, "it thoroughly transcends all 
the old labels. It is a spiritual-bio-psycho-social perspective 
with powerful implications." 

Politics of spirit, body, mind, society The new political 

awareness has little to do with parties or ideologies. Its con- 
stituents don't come in blocs. Power that is never surrendered 
by the individual cannot be brokered. 

Not by revolution or protest but by autonomy, the old slogan 
becomes a surprising fact: Power to the people. One by one 
by one. 




Complete health and awakening are really the same. 


Something we were withholding made us weak 
Until we found it was ourselves. 


The hope for real social transformation need not rest 
on circumstantial evidence. One major arena, health 
care, has already begun to experience wrenching 
change. The impending transformation of medicine is 

a window to the transformation of all our institutions. 

Here we can see what happens when consumers begin to 
withdraw legitimacy from an authoritarian institution. We see 
the rise of the autonomous health seeker, the transformation of 

a profession by its leadership, the impact of the new models 
from science, the way decentralized networks are effecting 
wide geographic change. 

We can see the power of an aligned minority to speed up a 
paradigm shift, the power of the media and informal communi- 
cations to alter our image of health and our expectations, the 
value of "aikido politics" rather than confrontation or rhetoric, 
the exploitation of existing sources of power, the potential of 
the psychotechnologies, and a fresh appreciation for intuition, 
human bonds, inner listening. 

The autonomy so evident in social movements is hitting the 
old assumptions of medicine hard. The search for self becomes 


242 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

a search for health, for wholeness — the cache of sanity and 
wisdom that once seemed beyond our conscious reach. If we 
respond to the message of pain or disease, the demand for 
adaptation, we can break through to a new level of wellness. 

For all its reputed conservatism. Western medicine is under- 
going an amazing revitalization. Patients and professionals 
alike are beginning to see beyond symptoms to the context of 
illness: stress, society, family, diet, season, emotions. Just as 
the readiness of a new constituency makes a new politics, the 
needs of patients can change the practice of medicine. Hospi- 
tals, long the bastions of barren efficiency, are scurrying to 
provide more humane environments for birth and death, more 
flexible policies. Medical schools, long geared to skim the cool 
academic cream, are trying to attract more creative, people- 
oriented students. Bolstered by a blizzard of research on the 
psychology of illness, practitioners who once split mind and 
body are trying to put them back together. 

No one had realized how vulnerable the old medical model 
was. Within a few short years, without a shot's being fired, the 
concept of holistic health has been legitimized by federal and 
state programs, endorsed by politicians, urged and underwrit- 
ten by insurance companies, co-opted in terminology (if not 
always in practice) by many physicians, and adopted by medi- 
cal students. Consumers demand "holistic health," a whole 
new assortment of entrepreneurs promise it, and medical 
groups look for speakers to explain it. 

Taking its own pulse, American medicine has voiced the 
need for reform — for training in values, ethics, human rela- 
tions. Most physicians, for example, have had little or no train- 
ing in coping with death — not only in counseling patients and 
relatives, but in their own feelings of defeat and fear. 

Articles on the human context of medicine appear with in- 
creasing frequency in the trade press. A former editor of the 
Journal of the American Medical Association described his own use 
of touch — a pat on the back, a warm handshake. He said that 
modern practitioners may be better listeners to organs than the 
good clinicians of early times, but the old-timers were better 
listeners to people. "I suspect that some atrophy of our diagnos- 
tic senses occurred when subjective observation was replaced 
by objective laboratory data." Another medical publication ex- 
pressed editorial concern about "the elusive skills" — the need 
for new doctors to recognize the psychological, social, and spir- 
itual aspects of illness. 

Healing Ourselves 243 


We seem to have gone through a period of unleavened medical 
“science/' and now we are getting the heart back. Physicians 
themselves are writing and speaking of the lost dimension in 
healing. A guest editorial in American Medical News decried 
medicine's crisis of human relations: 

Compassions and intuitions are waylaid. . . . Physicians 
must recognize that medicine is not their private preserve 
but a profession in which all people have a vital stake. ... It 
will take great medical statesmanship to correct a major 
failure — the patient's sense of unrequited love. 

An article in a dentistry journal quoted Teilhard: “Love is the 
internal, affectively apprehending aspect of the affinity which 
links and draws together the elements of the world. . . . Love, in 
fact, is the agent of universal synthesis." 

In Modem Medicine a physician wrote bitterly about “the Lay- 
ing Off of Hands." Bartenders, he said, make people feel bet- 
ter, but we physicians usually make them feel worse. Warmth 
and palliation have been relinquished to other practitioners, 
many of them outside mainstream medicine. "Physicians are 
left with their diagnostic requisition slips and their prescription 
pads to pursue their increasingly automated, slick, scientific, 
impersonal 'art.'" 

A poignant account of a surgeon-essayist described the 
physician to the Dalai Lama making the rounds of an American 
hospital. The Tibetan physician did a pulse diagnosis on a pa- 

For the next half hour he remains thus, suspended above 
the patient like some exotic golden bird with folded wings, 
holding the pulse of the woman beneath his fingers, cra- 
dling her hand in his. All the power of the man seems to 
have been drawn down into this one purpose. . . . And I 
know that I, who have palpated a hundred thousand 
pulses, have not truly felt a single one. 

The Tibetan, he said, accurately diagnosed a specific type of 
congenital heart disorder solely on the basis of the pulse. 

William Steiger, chairman of the department of medicine of a 
Virginia hospital, told a group of physicians that their empathy 

244 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

is what Martin Buber called I-Thou and the necessary objective 
examination and testing is Tit. He quoted Buber's statement 
that "knowledge is an autopsy upon the corpse of real living." 
If you count something, Steiger said, it goes away. "The I-it is a 
monologue, the I-Thou is a dialogue. They're complementary." 
When a medical problem persists, the doctor usually pursues 
more Tit, more lab tests, when what is needed at that point is a 
deeper human understanding, more I-Thou. 

"The therapeutic attitude should be, 'What can I do to help?' 
We should offer warmth and succor before we order the first 


Neither tact nor conspiracy could have triggered such rapid 
change if medicine had not been beset by crisis — in economics, 
in performance, in credibility. 

Like the foil wrap on a disappointing gift, the shiny technol- 
ogy has dealt stunningly with certain acute problems, as in 
inoculations and sophisticated surgical procedures, but its fail- 
ures in chronic and degenerative disease, including cancer and 
heart disease, have driven practitioners and the public to look 
in new directions. 

We have been alienated by costs that soared beyond the 
means of all but the well-insured or wealthy; by specialization 
and the cold, quantifying approach that brushes past human 
concerns, and by the growing despair that comes from spend- 
ing without regaining health. 

Health care (including medical insurance) is now the third 
largest industry in the United States; medical costs are roughly 
9 percent of the Gross National Product. Federal health costs 
are over fifty billion dollars. Neighboring hospitals duplicate 
expensive equipment, doctors order unnecessary laboratory 
tests to protect themselves from malpractice suits ("defensive 
medicine"). Even a simple office call now represents a major 
expenditure to the average person. Runaway costs, especially 
hospital charges, have made it all but impossible to enact any 
sort of national health plan. 

Even those to whom cost is no problem may only buy tech- 
nological failures. A British study of three hundred and fifty 
random coronary patients, for example, found that the death 
rate for those in intensive-care units was higher than for those 

Healing Ourselves 245 

convalescing at home. A federal spokesman recently referred to 
the so-called war on cancer as "a medical Vietnam." The bil- 
lions spent, the onslaught of technology, have yielded little. 
The mortality rate for most major cancers has not changed sig- 
nificantly in twenty-five years, despite more public education, 
new drugs, more sophisticated radiation and surgery tech- 
niques. It has been estimated that as many as a million hospital 
admissions per year are related to some form of drug reaction 
and that illness caused by the side effects of treatment adds 
perhaps eight billion dollars per year to the total medical bill. 

Brilliant new operations are taken up like intellectual fash- 
ions. Thousands had coronary bypass operations before the 
belated studies reported that most candidates benefited as 
much from drugs as from the dangerous, expensive surgery. 
The pathos of the technological dream is especially plain in our 
hundred years' fruitless search for a powerful, nonaddictive 

One of the most prevalent medical problems of our times is 
iatrogenic illness. It means — literally — "doctor-caused." Iatro- 
genic illness results from surgical complications, wrong medi- 
cation, side effects of drugs or other treatments, and the de- 
bilitating effects of hospitalization. 

Not long ago, when physicians represented the pinnacle of 
status and humanitarian service, proud mothers spoke of "my 
son, the doctor." Pity the poor doctor now: thirty to a hundred 
times likelier than the general population to be addicted to 
drugs. Likelier to suffer from coronary disease. Likelier to be a 
problem drinker, with an estimated 5 to 6 percent of all physi- 
cians said by professional-organization surveys to be totally 
incapacitated by emotional disorders, including alcoholism. 
More often sued — and suicidal. 

A recent Gallup poll disclosed that 44 percent of the public 
does not believe physicians to be "highly ethical and hon- 
est" — a low blow to a group that had long been venerated. 
"MDs Take It on the Chin," read a medical newspaper head- 
line; the article noted that thirteen of fifteen physicians running 
for national office in 1976 lost their elections. Physicians com- 
mented in their professional publications that malpractice suits 
seem to reflect disappointment or hostility and that doctors 
with good patient rapport are unlikely to be sued, no matter 

A Senate subcommittee on health reported growing con- 
sumer disenchantment: 

246 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

The problem of dehumanization in health care is of increas- 
ing concern to health professionals Medicine is at the 

interface between humanity and technology, but the 
former has been so relatively disregarded in recent decades 
that medicine is in danger of losing a great deal of its rele- 
vance. The Committee sees as a priority national health 
need that health personnel at every level deliver care in a 
humanistic way. 

Especially in the light of new scientific findings, we see in 
retrospect some of the tragic wrong turns of twentieth-century 
medicine — not surprisingly, the same mistakes that plague us 
in our other social institutions. We have oversold the benefits 
of technology and external manipulations; we have undersold 
the importance of human relationships and the complexity of 


The new paradigm of health and medicine enlarges the 
framework of the old, incorporating brilliant technological ad- 
vances while restoring and validating intuitions about mind 
and relationships. It explains many heretofore puzzling phe- 
nomena. Its coherence and predictive powers are superior to 
those of the old model. It adds the fire and poetry of inspired 
science to the prose of workaday science. 

"Holistic,” when that adjective is properly applied to health 
care, refers to a qualitatively different approach, one that re- 
spects the interaction of mind, body, and environment. Beyond 
the allopathic approach of treating the disease and symptoms 
of disease, it seeks to correct the underlying disharmony caus- 
ing the problem. A holistic approach may include a variety of 
diagnostic tools and treatments, some orthodox, some not. A 
much-simplified comparison of the two views: 


Treatment of symptoms. 



Search for patterns and 
causes, plus treatment of 

Integrated, concerned 
with the whole patient. 

Healing Ourselves 247 


Emphasis on efficiency. 

Professional should be 
emotionally neutral. 

Pain and disease are 
wholly negative. 

Primary intervention with 
drugs, surgery. 

Body seen as machine in 
good or bad repair. 

Disease or disability seen 
as thing, entity. 

Emphasis on eliminating 
symptoms, disease. 

Patient is dependent. 

Professional is authority. 

Body and mind are 
separate; psychosomatic 
illness is mental, may be 
referred to psychiatrist. 

Mind is secondary factor 
in organic illness. 

Placebo effect shows the 
power of suggestion. 


Emphasis on human 

Professional's caring is a 
component of healing. 

Pain and disease are 
information about conflict, 

Minimal intervention with 
"appropriate technology," 
complemented with full 
armamentarium of 
non-invasive techniques 
(psychotherapies, diet, 

Body seen as dynamic 
system, context, field of 
energy within other fields. 

Disease or disability seen 
as process. 

Emphasis on achieving 
maximum wellness, 

Patient is (or should be) 

Professional is therapeutic 

Bodymind perspective; 
psychosomatic illness is 
province of all health-care 

Mind is primary or 
coequal factor in all 

Placebo effect shows the 
mind's role in disease and 

248 The Aquarian Conspiracy 


Primary reliance on 
quantitative information 
(charts, tests, dates). 

"Prevention" largely 
vitamins, rest, exercise, 
immunization, not 

Notice the parallels between the assumptions of the new 
paradigm and the scientific discoveries discussed in Chapter 6: 
dynamic systems; the transformation of stress; the bodymind 
continuum; a new appreciation of qualities, not just quantities. 


Edward Carpenter condemned the medical thinkers of his day 
for their single-minded preoccupation with disease. They 
should try, rather, to understand health, he said. Health is a 
governing harmony, just as the moon governs the tides. We 
can no more manipulate the body into health by external 
ministrations than we can manage the ebb and flow of the tides 
by "an organized system of mops." The greatest outside effort 
cannot do "what the central power does easily and with uner- 
ring grace and providence." 

Well-being cannot be infused intravenously or ladled in by 
prescription. It comes from a matrix: the bodymind. It reflects 
psychological and somatic harmony. As one anatomist put it, 
"the healer inside us is the wisest, most complex, integrated 
entity in the universe." In a sense, we know now, there is 
always a doctor in the house. 

"You can't deliver holistic health," one practitioner said. It 
originates in an attitude: an acceptance of life's uncertainties, a 
willingness to accept responsibility for habits, a way of perceiv- 
ing and dealing with stress, more satisfying human relation- 
ships, a sense of purpose. 


Primary reliance on 
qualitative information, 
including patient's 
subjective reports and 
professional's intuition; 
quantitative data an 

synonymous with 
wholeness: work, 
relationships, goals, 

Healing Ourselves 249 

We honor the invisible matrix of health as we lose our uneas- 
iness about it. As science becomes more spacious in its think- 
ing, wider in its synthesis, old puzzles begin to make sense. 
Although we don't know how beliefs and expectations affect 
health, we know clearly that they do. Two hundred years ago 
the French Academy threw Mesmer out, declaring that hyp- 
nosis was a fraud, "nothing but imagination." "If so," said 
a dissident member, "what a wonderful thing imagination 
must be!" 

After decades of trying to "explain" one mystery by invoking 
another, medical science is now coming to terms with the un- 
avoidable and critical influence of the patient's expectations. 
"Placebo effect" now refers to more than the inactive substance 
(sugar pill, salt-water injection) given to difficult patients. The 
doctor's reputation, the mood of the hospital staff, the fame of 
the medical center, the mystique of a particular treatment — any 
of these can contribute to healing by coloring the patient's ex- 
pectations. There is also a "nocebo effect," the opposite of 
placebo. When laboratory subjects were given an inactive sub- 
stance and told it would give them a headache, two-thirds got a 

The placebo activates a capacity that was in the mind all 
along. As noted earlier, research has shown that placebo pain 
relief is apparently due to the brain's release of a natural 
analgesic. Yet most doctors and nurses still treat the placebo as 
a trick that works on people whose suffering is not "real," a 
misunderstanding that rests on a naive idea of reality and ig- 
norance of the role of the mind in creating experience. 

The belief of the healer can also alter the efficacy of the treat- 
ment. In a set of experiments described by Jerome Frank, an 
authority on the placebo effect, patients were given either a 
mild painkiller, a placebo, or morphine. When the doctors 
thought they were administering morphine, the placebo was 
twice as effective as when they thought they were giving a mild 
analgesic! In a similar study, psychotic patients were given 
either a mild tranquilizer, a major tranquilizer, or a placebo. 
The placebo's effects were far greater when the doctors thought 
they had given the powerful drug rather than the mild one. 

Rick Ingrasci, a physician and co-founder of a Boston-area 
network, Interface, said that the placebo effect offers dramatic 
proof that all healing is essentially self-healing: 

As the placebo effect so vividly demonstrates to us, chang- 
ing our expectations or fundamental assumptions can pro- 

250 The Aquarian Conspiraq/ 

foundly affect our experience of health and well-being. 
Healing comes as a direct result of perceiving ourselves as 
whole . . . when we reestablish our sense of balanced rela- 
tionship with the universe, through a change of mind — a 
transformation in attitudes, values, beliefs. 

Ingrasci said that his experiences with patients have convinced 
him that once negative mindsets are released, healing takes 
place automatically. "It's as if there is a life force or ordering 
principle ready to reestablish our natural state of wholeness 
and health if we can just drop the barriers of negative expecta- 
tions." If we relax, however briefly, these positive expectations 
can produce positive effects. "To start, we must first learn to 
get past the psychological barriers — cynicism, mistrust, fear — 
that prevent us from even trying. . . . The long-term effects may 
prove truly transformative for ourselves and society." 


People promoting holistic health are fond of pointing out that 
dis-ease is a lack of harmony or ease. Clearly, it is more impor- 
tant to teach people how to change the matrix of their illness — 
the stress, conflict, or worry that helped bring it about — than to 
trick them with placebos. 

The role of altered awareness in healing may be the single 
most important discovery in modern medical science. Con- 
sider, for example, the extraordinary range of illnesses treated 
by biofeedback: high blood pressure, seizures, ulcers, impo- 
tence, incor ‘ nence, ringing in the ears, paralysis after stroke, 
tension headaches, arthritis, cardiac arrhythmia, hemorrhoids, 
diabetes, cerebral palsy, grinding of teeth. 

Attention itself is the key. Several years ago researchers at 
the Menninger Foundation reported that patients could abort 
headaches by raising the temperature of their hands. They con- 
jectured that drawing blood from the head to increase hand 
temperature might relieve congested blood vessels causing the 
headache. Temperature biofeedback became a popular and 
successful method for treating migraine. But then biofeedback 
clinicians discovered that some patients can stop their mi- 
graines by lowering hand temperature — or by lowering it on one 
occasion and raising it on another. 

It is not a simple physical change but rather the state of mind 
that is the key to health. This state has been called "restful 
alertness," "passive volition," "deliberate letting." Like the ice 

Healing Ourselves 251 

breaking free in a spring thaw, cumulative stresses seem to 
melt under this paradoxical attention, restoring natural flow to 
the bodymind whirlpool. 

Stress cannot be sidestepped. New information, noise, ten- 
sion, congestion, personal conflict, and competition add up to 
the stress-related diseases that plague the twentieth century. 

Or is stress the culprit? Perhaps what we really have are 
change-avoidance diseases. Our vulnerability to stress appears 
to be due more to our interpretation of events than their inher- 
ent seriousness. F.D.R.'s famous remark, “The only thing we 
have to fear is fear itself," relates to the bodymind as well. 

Kenneth Pelletier, a psychologist at the University of Califor- 
nia School of Medicine in San Francisco who has spent most of 
the past decade teaching people to deal with stress, points out 
that the body is literal. It can't tell the difference between a 
“real" threat and a perceived one. Our worries and negative 
expectations translate into physical illness because the body 
feels as if we are endangered, even if the threat is imaginary. 

We can handle short-term stress naturally because of the 
body's rest-and-renewal response, its parasympathetic reac- 
tion. But long-term stress — the “one damned thing after 
another" typical of modern existence — takes its toll because 
there is no opportunity for rebound between stresses. When 
Pelletier studied meditators in the laboratory, he found not 
only highly integrated responses but the ability to shift the 
body into a parasympathetic phase. “The yogis have learned to 
let go of those excess levels of self-stressing neurophysiological 
activity and simply quiet themselves down." 

Most of us suffer from what he called a “cumulative destruc- 
tive cycle. The secret is paying attention, investing your life 
with attention." Paying attention to stress in a relaxed state 
transforms it. Meditation, biofeedback, relaxation techniques, 
autogenic training, running, listening to music — any of these 
can help elicit the body's recovery phase. 

Refusal to acknowledge stress means that we pay double; not 
only does our alarm not go away but it goes into the body. This 
was evident in a recent laboratory experiment. The threat of an 
imminent painful electric shock caused strikingly different 
body changes in individuals, depending on whether they decided to 
confront it or avoid thinking about it. The confronters tried to 
understand the situation. They actively focused their attention 
on the coming shock and wanted to get it over with. They 
thought about events in the laboratory environment or directed 
attention to their bodies. 

The avoiders, on the other hand, used a host of strategies to 

252 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

distract themselves. They tried to think about nonstressful 
subjects, matters outside the laboratory; or they fantasized. 
Whereas the confronters felt they could do something about 
the stress situation, if only to prepare for it, the avoiders tended 
to feel helpless and tried to escape through denial. 

Muscle activity increased in the confronter — an appropriate 
physiological response. The avoiders had significantly higher 
heart rates, suggesting that their stress was pushed back to 
another, more pathological level. 

Denial can follow us to the grave. Not only does the mind 
have strategies for walling off psychological conflict; it can also 
deny the illnesses that result from the first round of denial. The 
pathological effect of this refusal to face facts was evident in a 
cancer study at the University of Texas. Those patients who 
showed the greatest denial in response to questions about their 
disease were likeliest to have a poor prognosis when they were 
followed up two months later. 

Conflict not dealt with consciously can wreak its physical 
damage in almost as many ways as there are people. One of the 
Aquarian Conspirators, who had worked in a medical setting, 
expressed her belief that ill people should not be told, "You'll 
be your old self again." 

Very often they don't want to go back to being the way 
they were, doing the things they were doing. My 
daughter-in-law, who had a stroke recently, conceded that 
she hadn't faced the fact that she wanted to change her 
life. So the stroke changed her life. 

Another man I know of was a car dealer in partnership 
with a lazy brother. He carried the whole load of work 
without saying anything. When he had a stroke, his 
brother had to take over. He said later that he was glad he'd 
had the stroke. 

If we learn to pay attention to such inner conflicts, we can 
resolve them in ways less drastic to our health. 


As more is learned in brain research, the connection between 
mind and illness becomes more understandable. The brain 
masterminds or indirectly influences every function of the 
body: blood pressure, heart rate, immune response, hormones. 

Healing Ourselves 253 

everything. Its mechanisms are linked by an alarm network, 
and it has a kind of dark genius, organizing disorders appro- 
priate to our most neurotic imaginings. 

The old saying, "name your poison," applies to the seman- 
tics and symbols of disease. If we feel "picked on" or someone 
gives us a pain in the neck, we may make our metaphors lit- 
eral — with acne or neck spasms. People have long spoken of a 
"broken heart" as the result of a disappointing relationship; 
now research has shown a connection between loneliness and 
heart disease. In animal research, heart disease has been 
caused by the prolonged stimulation of a brain region as- 
sociated with strong emotion. The same region is connected to 
the immune system. So the "broken heart" may become coro- 
nary disease; the need to grow may become a tumor, the am- 
bivalence a "splitting headache," the rigid personality arthritis. 
Every metaphor is potentially a literal reality. 

All illness, whether cancer or schizophrenia or a cold, ori- 
ginates in the bodymind. On his deathbed Louis Pasteur ac- 
knowledged that a medical adversary of his had been right in 
insisting that disease is caused less by the germ than by the 
resistance of the individual invaded by the germ. "It is the 
terrain," he conceded. 1 As Lewis Thomas pointed out in The 
Lives of a Cell, our bodies often respond hysterically to harmless 
germs, as if the intruder evokes ancient memories and we react 
to a kind of propaganda. "We are, in effect, at the mercy of our 
own Pentagons most of the time." 

The body's ability to make sense of new information, to 
transform it, is health. If we are flexible, able to adapt to a 
changing environment, even a virus or damp air or fatigue or 
spring pollens, we can withstand a high level of stress. 

A recent and radical concept of the immune system can help 
us understand how the "inner physician" maintains health — 
and how it fails. The body, via the immune system, seems to 
have its own way of "knowing," parallel to the way the brain 
knows. This immune system is linked to the brain. The "mind" 
of the immune system has a dynamic image of the self and a 
drive to transform environmental "noise," including viruses 

'This is not to disregard the role of genetic susceptibility or environmental 
influences such as smoking. Illness or health originates in a milieu. The 
translation of unresolved conflict or change into a particular disease is partially 
influenced by genetic vulnerability, which biases us toward particular disor- 
ders. One whose family history includes a high incidence of allergy, diabetes, 
schizophrenia, or cardiac disease is somewhat likelier to experience these 
disorders than, say, cancer under stress. 

254 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

and allergens, into sense. It does not reject certain substances 
or react to them violently because they are foreign, as was 
believed in the old paradigm, but because they are nonsense. 
They cannot be fitted into the orderly system. 

This immune system is powerful and plastic in its ability to 
render sense out of its environment, but since it is tied into the 
brain it is vulnerable to psychological stress. Research has 
shown that stressful mental states like grief and anxiety alter 
the immune system's capability. The reason we sometimes 
“get” a virus or have an “allergic reaction” is because the im- 
mune system is functioning under par. 

This immune system has a memory whose subtlety was 
demonstrated in animal research. If an innocent drug is paired 
with an immunosuppressant — a drug that suppresses the im- 
mune system — the body learns to suppress its immune system 
when it gets only the innocent drug, even if it is months later. In 
just this way, stressful periods of our lives can be paired with 
innocent cues in the environment (for example, allergens or 
events that remind us of other events) to cause chronic illness, 
long after the original source of stress has been removed. The 
body “remembers" to be sick. 

Cancer, of course, represents a failure of the immune system. 
At various points in our lives, most of us have malignant cells 
that do not become clinical cancer because the immune system 
efficiently disposes of them. Of the psychological factors impli- 
cated in cancer, the most conspicuous is bottled-up emotion. 
One researcher remarked that many cancer patients exhibit the 
stolid faces of the famous Grant Wood painting, American 

Cancer patients have more difficulty remembering their 
dreams than patients found not to have cancer, fewer marital 
changes (separations, divorces), fewer symptoms of illnesses 
known to reflect psychological conflict (ulcers, migraine, 
asthma). 2 Various studies have found that cancer patients tend 
to keep their feelings to themselves, and most have not had 
close relationships with their parents. They find it difficult to 
express anger. One study reported that they are conforming 
and controlled, less autonomous and spontaneous than those 
whose tests later prove negative. One cancer therapist said of 

2 In most such studies, personality assessments precede the diagnosis. Those 
later found to have cancer are then compared to those whose tests were 
negative. In some studies, large groups have been followed for decades to 
determine whether those who eventually develop cancer have distinguishing 
personality characteristics or similar life stresses. 

Healing Ourselves 255 

her patients, "They have typically experienced a gap in their 
lives — disappointment, expectations that didn't work out. It's 
as if the need for growth becomes a physical metaphor." 

Unexpressed grief may trigger pathology by depressing the 
immune system. One study showed that the death of a spouse 
resulted in lower immune function during subsequent weeks. 
A Boston project found a 60 percent miscarriage rate in women 
who got pregnant just after losing a baby to the Sudden In- 
fant Death syndrome. The report urged that such bereaved wo- 
men "should wait until the body is no longer feeling the effects 
of grief." 


Over the years our bodies become walking autobiographies, 
telling friends and strangers alike of the minor and major 
stresses of our lives. Distortions of function that occur after 
injuries, like a limited range of motion in a hurt arm, become a 
permanent part of our body pattern. Our musculature reflects 
not only old injuries but old anxieties. Poses of timidity, depres- 
sion, bravado, or stoicism adopted early in life are locked into 
our bodies as patterns in our sensorimotor system. 

In the vicious cycle of bodymind pathology, our body's tight 
patterns contribute to our locked-in mental processes. We can- 
not separate mental from physical, fact from fantasy, past from 
present. Just as the body feels the mind's grief, so the mind is 
constricted by the body's stubborn memory of what the mind 
used to feel, and on and on. 

This cycle can be interrupted by "bodywork" — therapies that 
deeply (and often painfully) massage, manipulate, loosen, or 
otherwise change the body's neuromuscular system, its orien- 
tation to gravity, its symmetry. Changing the body in this way 
can affect the whole bodymind loop profoundly. The late Ida 
Rolf, whose structural integration method (Rolfing) is one of 
the best-known approaches, quoted Norbert Weiner, the foun- 
der of cybernetics: "We are not the stuff that abides but pat- 
terns that perpetuate themselves." 

Just as some psychotechnologies increase the fluctuation of 
energy through the brain, enabling new patterns or paradigm 
shifts to occur, bodywork alters the flow of energy through the 
body, freeing it of its old "ideas" or patterns, increasing its 
range of movement. Structural integration, the Alexander 
method, Feldenkrais, Applied Kinesiology, Neurokinesthetics, 

256 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

bioenergetics, Reichian therapy, and hundreds of other sys- 
tems initiate transformation of the body. 

John Donne's famous line, "No man is an island," is as true 
of our bodies as of our social interdependence. Belatedly, half a 
century after we should have taken the hint from physics. 
Western medicine is beginning to recognize that the body is a 
process — a bioelectric whirlpool, sensitive to positive ions, 
cosmic rays, trace minerals in our diet, free electricity from 
power generators. 

Picturing the body at its dynamic level helps us to make 
sense of otherwise puzzling controversies. For example, or- 
thomolecular psychiatry, which treats mental disturbances 
with megadoses of vitamins and trace minerals, bases its ap- 
proach on the effect of these nutrients on the brain's bioelectri- 
cal activity. Electrical stimulation hurries the healing of slow- 
mending bones, perhaps by creating large enough fluctuation 
of energy to bring about regeneration. Direct current has been 
measured at the acupuncture points. 

Acupuncture and acupressure, which stimulate particular 
points on precise meridians, show how even remote parts of 
the body are connected. The more we see of the effects of 
acupuncture, the better we understand why treating symptoms 
alone seldom alleviates disease. 

We are oscillating fields within larger fields. Our brains re- 
spond to the rhythm of sounds, pulsations of light, specific 
colors, tiny changes of temperature. We even become biologi- 
cally entrained to those close to us; couples who live together, 
for example, have been shown to share a monthly temperature 
cycle. When we engage in conversation, even if we are only 
listening, we enter into a subtle "dance" with the other person, 
synchronous movements so small they can only be detected by 
examining movie film frame by frame. 

Stimulation in the environment affects the growth and con- 
nections of the plastic human brain from its earliest critical 
periods to its last days — its weight, nutrients, the number of 
cells. Even in the elderly, the physical brain does not lose a 
measurable number of cells if the environment is stimulating. 

If the bodymind is a process, so disease is a process. . . . And 
so is healing, whole-making, with seven million of our red 
blood cells blinking out of existence every second, replaced by 
seven million more. Even our bones are fully rebuilt over a 
seven-year period. Just as in the dance of the goddess Shiva, 
we are continuously creating and destroying, creating and de- 

Healing Ourselves 257 

Wallace Ellerbroek, a former surgeon now a psychiatrist, 

We doctors seem to have a predilection for nouns in nam- 
ing diseases (epilepsy, measles, brain tumor), and because 
these things "deserve" nouns as names, then obviously 
they are things — to us. If you take one of these nouns — 
measles — and make it into a verb, then it becomes, "Mrs. 
Jones, your little boy appears to be measling," which 
opens both your mind and hers to the concept of disease as 
a process. 

Ellerbroek has successfully treated a number of diseases by 
teaching the patient to confront and accept the process — to pay 
attention to it. In one well-known experiment, he instructed 
chronic acne patients to react to any new outbreak of pimples 
with nonjudgmental attention. They might look into the mirror 
and say, in effect, "Well, pimple, there you are, right where 
you belong at this moment in time." They were urged to accept 
the acne rather than resisting it with negative emotions. 

All participants had had their acne for fifteen or more years 
without relief. The results of the experiment were stunning. 
Several patients were completely clear within weeks. An active 
process — fear, resentment, denial — had been maintaining the 

Health and disease don't just happen to us. They are active 
processes issuing from inner harmony or disharmony, pro- 
foundly affected by our states of consciousness, our ability or 
inability to flow with experience. This recognition carries with 
it implicit responsibility and opportunity. If we are participat- 
ing, however unconsciously, in the process of disease, we can 
choose health instead. 


Illness, as Pelletier and many others have said, is potentially 
transformative because it can cause a sudden shift in values, an 
awakening. If we have been keeping secrets from ourselves — 
unexamined conflicts, suppressed yearnings — illness may force 
them into awareness. 

For many Aquarian Conspirators, an involvement in health 
care was a major stimulus to transformation. Just as the search 
for self becomes a search for health, so the pursuit of health can 

258 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

lead to greater self-awareness. All wholeness is the same. The 
proliferating holistic health centers and networks have drawn 
many into the consciousness movement. A nurse said, "If 
healing becomes a reality with you, it's a lifestyle. Altered 
states of consciousness accompany it, increased telepathy. It's 
an adventure." 

One woman sought biofeedback instrumentation to see if she 
could lower her intraocular pressure and cure her glaucoma. 
She succeeded, but more importantly, she discovered that her 
states of consciousness affected her entire life, not just her vi- 
sion. An MD, concerned about the abusive doses of Valium he 
was taking for his headaches, tried biofeedback . . . which led to 
inner attention . . . which led to meditation and wrenching 
change, including a far different career in medicine. A promi- 
nent attorney came to believe that there was a valuable purpose 
in his progressive loss of eyesight: 

I felt called, not to fight against the sudden impairment of 
outer vision but to cooperate with it as a way to enhance 
my own life process. Looking back over the past fifteen 
months. I'm convinced it would have been a great loss if by 
some chance, miracle, or effort of will, the process had 
been reversed at once. 

A conspirator-bureaucrat said he discovered health as a by- 
product of meditation. After several years of Transcendental 
Meditation he found it easy to give up his compulsive drinking 
and soon thereafter his compulsive overeating. "At an age 
when I should be going downhill. I'm healthier than I was five 
years ago and getting healthier all the time." 

A psychologist, a national leader in holistic medicine, wan- 
dered into the field by way of a T'ai Chi instructor who in- 
terested him in acupuncture. He has now successfully inte- 
grated alternative medical approaches into the curriculum of a 
major medical school and has arranged lecture series on holistic 
approaches for a group of medical schools. "When you develop 
liaisons," he said, "it's critical that you speak the right lan- 
guage. If I talked yin and yang to most neurosurgeons, they 
wouldn't hear me. I talk the sympathetic and parasympathetic 
nervous systems. If we want to help people change, it's im- 
portant that we don't push them or pull them — just walk to- 

A former political activist — now on the faculty of a medical 
school — who teaches courses on the biology of the bodymind. 

Healing Ourselves 259 

said, "This revolution says that we're all basically all right and 
that the return to health is natural. It's anti-elitist. Profes- 
sionalism, the degree on the wall, is eroding as a symbol of 
authority. Love is the most irresistible power in the universe. 
Caring — that's what healing is all about.” 

A New York MD, all but paralyzed from chronic back pain 
after an automobile accident, discovered that pressure at 
acupuncture points on her foot relieved her agony. "I believe 
my acumassage worked because of my readiness and perspec- 
tive at that time and the treatment itself which redirected the 
flow of energy. Through that experience I became interested in 
learning more about hypnosis, biofeedback, and meditation.” 
A clergyman who responded to the Aquarian Conspiracy 
questionnaire opened a holistic health and meditation center 
after finding relief from chronic pain through meditation. A 
New Mexico MD said she began using a spiritual network as a 
counseling adjunct for patients who were slow to get well. 
Several respondents said they had been drawn into the 
psychotechnologies by their curiosity about healing 
phenomena they saw as medical professionals. 


The new way of thinking about health and disease, with its 
message of hope and its charge of individual responsibility, is 
widely communicated by the Aquarian Conspiracy, as in a 1978 
Washington conference, "Holistic Health: A Public Policy,” 
cosponsored by several government agencies and private orga- 
nizations. Agencies from the Department of Health, Education 
and Welfare were represented. So was the White House staff. 
Insurance companies, prepaid health-plan organizations, and 
foundations sent representatives — in many cases, their top 
executive officers. Politicians, physicians, psychologists, tradi- 
tional healers, spiritual teachers, researchers, futurists, 
sociologists, and health policymakers shared the platform. The 
assistant surgeon-general opened the conference; principal 
speakers included Jerome Frank on the placebo effect, Califor- 
nia legislator John Vasconcellos, meditation teacher Jack 
Schwarz, Buckminster Fuller on human ecology. 

Topics included public-health policy, implementation of 
holistic health centers, crosscultural healing practices, systems 
theory, the holographic theory of mind and reality, yoga, music 
and consciousness, acupuncture and acupressure, Buddhist 

260 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

meditative techniques, electromeditine, alternative birth ap- 
proaches, bodywork, biofeedback, guided imagery, homeo- 
pathy, nutrition — and "the changing image of man." 

This inclusive program typifies the new paradigm, which 
sees many nontraditional healing systems as complementary to 
Western medicine. Whether we understand how they work or 
not, they can be put to our service, just as conventional medi- 
cine uses aspirin, digitalis, and electroconvulsive shock with- 
out knowing why they are effective. 

It was in 1970 that the first group of scientists and physi- 
cians — friends — gathered in a public forum to assert their 
interest in spiritual realities and alternative approaches to 
health. The standing-room-only program at De Anza College 
in Cupertino, California, was underwritten by Lockheed Air- 
craft. Six months later a similar cast of characters staged twin 
weekend programs at UCLA and Stanford, emphasizing the 
role of the mind in disease, telling of "new" therapies: medita- 
tion, visualization, biofeedback, acupuncture, hypnosis, 
psychic healing, folk healing. Within a few years, variations on 
this scientific-spiritual mating dance had been performed on 
the campuses of most major universities in the country, in- 
cluding Yale, Harvard, New York University, New York Insti- 
tute of Technology, every branch of the University of California 
system, and the Universities of Massachusetts, Miami, Michi- 
gan, and Illinois. The Rockefeller, Ford, and Kellogg founda- 
tions funded programs exploring the interface of mind and 

In October 1975 Roy Menninger of the Menninger Clinic said 
at a Tucson conference, "The traditional ideas about medicine 
and the new concept of man are on a collision course." Other 
speakers foresaw confrontation and resistance in the realm of 
health-care reform. 

But even then, at the Tucson meeting, detente had begun. 
Take the case of Malcolm Todd. Todd, then president of the 
conservative AMA, gave a somewhat defensive recounting of 
the technological wonders of modem medicine. His talk was 
not an audience pleaser, but everyone agreed that his willing- 
ness to appear on the platform along with unorthodoxy was 

Less than a year later, appearing on a similar, larger program 
in San Diego, Todd endorsed the concept of a "humanistic 
medicine" that deals with the "bodymind." Nine months later 
he urged a heavily medical audience in Houston to take an ac- 
tive role in the integration of these holistic approaches into the 

Healing Ourselves 261 

system. Wisely used, he said, they promise an exciting rejuve- 
nation of Western medicine. "The spectrum of components 
might range from biofeedback and the psychology of con- 
sciousness to paranormal phenomena, psychic healing. . . 

The conspiracy has understood that potential opponents 
should be listened to, not shouted down. And they should be 
given first-hand experience of the larger context. In 1975 and 
1976 Rick Carlson, an attorney specializing in health policy, 
and others organized small conferences at Airliehouse, Vir- 
ginia, near Washington, to acquaint government officials and 
legislative aides with the power of holistic concepts and alter- 
native medicine. 3 Those who attended had an opportunity to 
try biofeedback, meditation, imagery, relaxation, and other 
psychotechnologies. Those meetings were quietly funded by 
Blue Cross-Blue Shield. 

In 1976 "the Blues," the Rockefeller Foundation, and the 
University of Califomia-San Francisco cosponsored a meeting 
at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, where two 
hundred top policymakers were introduced to alternative 
health approaches, emphasizing the importance of the "inner 
physician." Two months later a similar meeting was held, this 
time with an additional sponsor, the Institute of Medicine. 

The conspirators moved around the country like circuit rid- 
ers, preaching a perspective, not a dogma; launching an educa- 
tional program here, a pilot project there, promoting and pub- 
licizing the work of others in the network, forging new links. 
Some worked at changing their local and state professional 
organizations. Others alerted foundations and the press to the 
possibilities of a wider paradigm. 

The most successful strategies were gentle persuasion and 
first-hand experience. The wooing of influential policymakers 
has been an effective way of shaking the status quo. For exam- 
ple, some conferences served a dual purpose, enlightening the 
paying participants and seducing partially committed speakers 
into full alliance. 

Like a promise, a litany, a manifesto for wholeness in a bro- 
ken society, are the gatherings. And they are materializing all 
across the national landscape, more quickly than they can be 
counted: symposia and conferences, workshops and seminars, 

3 Actually, the Airliehouse meetings had been preceded by a ten-day London 
"human-potential workshop" in May 1975 in which various speakers — Moshe 
Feldenkrais, Rick Carlson, Fritjof Capra, Werner Erhard, and others — had 
brainstormed potential social change under the theme, "Frontiers of Medicine 
and Science." 

262 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

retreats, fairs and festivals, giant expositions. Among them: 
Ways of Healing, Healing East and West, New All-American Bi- 
Centennial Medicine Show, Annual Healing Arts Camp and Fair, 
Health Expo, New Age Expo, Toward Tomorrow Fair, New Physics 
and New Medicine, Meditation-related Therapies, Human Ecology, 
Human Energy, Common Ground, Body Faire, The Mind Can Do 
Anything, It's All in the Mind, Holistic Health Retreat, Holistic Life 
University, Celebration of Health, New Perspectives on Medicine, 
New Prescriptions for American Medicine, Physician of the Future, 
Healing Center of the Future, Cultural Perspectives in Healing, Na- 
tive American Healing, Natural Resources for Health, Self and Body, 
Body-Mind-Spirit, Stress Without Distress, Stress and the Psychol- 
ogy of Cancer, Biofeedback and Behavioral Medicine, Reintegrating 
the Body-Mind Split in Psychotherapy, Chinese Total Health for Body 
and Mind, New Dimensions in Health Care, Touch for Health, A 
Holistic Affair. 

And the organizations: The Center for Integral Medicine, The 
Institute of Humanistic Medicine, The Association for Holistic 
Health, numberless "holistic-health centers" and "holistic- 
health clinics." 

The conspiracy concedes that there is strength in numbers 
and certainly strength in cooperation, but not in centralization. 
One tentative effort to weld a single body of practitioners in 
1977 was vigorously resisted. Despite its powerful national al- 
liances and coalitions, the movement is determined to stay 
grass-roots and decentralized. 4 

The networks are SPINs, classic examples of the self- 
sufficient, multicentered groups described in Chapter 7. Cau- 
cuses have been formed in many of the older professional or- 
ganizations, and, at every national convention, panels and 
workshops are devoted to topics relating to alternative 
medicine: altered states of consciousness, acupuncture, hyp- 

4 Any wide-open, fuzzy field like "holistic health" offers abundant opportunity 
for fraud and overpromise. Ground rules include making sure that the unor- 
thodox procedures are used only to complement proven conventional treat- 
ments rather than subjecting consumers to needless risk. Consumers are 
warned against practitioners who make unwarranted promises or charge out- 
rageous fees. 

There have been some calls for licensure, but the debates usually come to 
this: Holistic health is a perspective, not a specialty or discipline. You can't 
license a concept. And you can't even know for sure what works. As Marshall 
McLuhan once said, "Mysticism is just tomorrow's science, dreamed today." 
The line between quackery and crazy-new-paradigm is not always easy to 

Healing Ourselves 263 

nosis, meditation, biofeedback. The body- mind-spirit slogan of 
these sessions may take its place as a revolutionary motif with 
"liberty, equality, fraternity." A number of holistic-health cen- 
ters, conferences, and networks have also emerged from 
churches or church-affiliated foundations. 

One newsletter said, "At this time holistic medicine is very 
much a 'people field' rather than an institutional field, depend- 
ing on a communications pattern which links a global informal 
network. ... As in many emerging disciplines, this informal 
network is the field of holistic health." Just as the new collective 
was said to be the new politics, so the health networks are the 
new paradigm of wellness — living and breathing examples of a 
better way. 

The conspiracy also recognizes the importance of semantics 
to bridge the old and the new. For example, the protocols for a 
landmark study of unconventional healing were approved by 
participating hospitals under the title "therapeutic touch" be- 
cause it seemed less esoteric than "the laying on of hands." A 
researcher prepared a grant proposal to study "The 
Psychobiology of Health." It was rejected. Knowing that the 
funding agencies are more oriented to pathology than well- 
ness, he retitled his proposal "The Psychobiology of Disease" 
and it was promptly accepted. 

By 1977 there were weekly "rap groups" at the National In- 
stitute of Mental Health (NIMH), informal discussions of 
shamanic healing, meditation, aura diagnosis. A working con- 
ference in California, sponsored by NIMH, produced a book of 
commissioned papers on alternative medicine for the express 
purpose of giving legitimacy to the concepts. Federal grants 
supported the study of bodymind changes produced by the 
psychotechnologies. NIMH also contracted for the preparation 
of an annotated bibliography on holistic medicine. In its work 
request, the agency eloquently defined the need: 

During the last two decades many physicians and mental 
health professionals have begun to discover the limitations 
in the paradigms and practices of western allopathic 

medicine The focus on pathology and disease rather 

than prevention, the destructiveness of so many phar- 
maceutical and surgical remedies, the too-rigid separation 
of physical and emotional problems, the assumption of an 
asymmetrical relationship between an all-powerful physi- 
cian and a submissive patient . . . have all prompted clini- 

264 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

dans and researchers to look for answers in other tradi- 
tions and techniques. 

This search has led many to seek out traditions in which 
body and mind are regarded as one, in which therapeutics 

are directed at aiding natural healing processes Some 

workers have turned their interest to forms of traditional 
medicine — acupuncture, homeopathy, herbalism, medita- 
tion, psychic healing; others, to such new techniques as 
guided imagery and biofeedback. 

“The war is over," Norman Cousins, publisher of Saturday 
Review, said in 1978. “We have allies out there, a lot of doctors 
who believe as we do but need encouragement." Cousins had 
reason to know of the “allies out there." He had recounted in 
the New England Journal of Medicine his own dramatic recovery 
from critical illness using an unorthodox approach when con- 
ventional medicine was at a loss. He prescribed his own 
treatment — a marathon of Marx Brothers movies and old 
“Candid Camera" shows, along with massive intravenous 
doses of Vitamin C. What had appeared to be a fatal cellular 
disease was reversed. 

The response to his article was phenomenal. Seventeen med- 
ical journals asked to reprint it, thirty-four medical schools in- 
cluded it in their course materials, and Cousins was invited to 
address medical schools around the country. More than three 
thousand physicians from many countries wrote him apprecia- 
tive, enthusiastic letters. Later in 1978 Cousins joined the fac- 
ulty of the UCLA Medical School. 


Cousins also addressed the 1977 convention of the American 
Medical Students Association (AMSA) in Atlanta. The conven- 
tion theme, "Alternative Roles in Health — a New Definition of 
Medicine," made it increasingly clear that the paradigm shift is 
happening in medical schools. Around the country, students 
and sympathetic faculty have started informal discussion 
groups on consciousness and holistic approaches to medicine. 
These groups meet regularly at such medical schools as UCLA, 
the University of Texas in Galveston, Baylor in Houston, Johns 
Hopkins in Baltimore. 

A national network. Goldenseal, grew out of the Johns Hop- 
kins group; one of its founders was then vice-president of 

Healing Ourselves 265 

AMS A. From its two founding members it grew to a member- 
ship of two hundred fifty in its first year. 

The AMS A official magazine. New Physician , devoted an en- 
tire issue in 1977 to alternative practices and has a regular de- 
partment on humanistic medicine. Laurel Cappa, 1976 presi- 
dent of AMSA, told a physicians' convention of the students' 
interest in family practice and in nontraditional approaches 
such as meditation and Gestalt psychology. Medical students 
were saying that they want to be partners, not authority figures 
to their patients. 

In 1978, the AMSA immediate past president, Doug Outcalt, 
was invited to Denver to address the founding conference of a 
new organization of physicians, the American Holistic Medical 
Association. He urged the members to serve as models for 
those students looking for a more open, humanistic approach 
to health care. 

Medical students, he said, can be roughly divided into thirds: 
the Traditionalists, content to pursue medicine as it was prac- 
ticed by their fathers; the Dues-payers, who don't approve of 
the system but can't imagine that it will change; and the 
Searchers, those actively interested in alternatives. "You can 
help us," Outcalt said. "Infiltrate the admissions committees. 
Infiltrate the curriculum committees. Get on the clinical facul- 
ties at the medical schools." 

Conspiracy and crisis are indeed changing medical schools. 
A number of those who filled out Aquarian Conspiracy ques- 
tionnaires are on the faculties of medical schools, not only offer- 
ing the students a more generous paradigm but also organizing 
continuing medical-education programs for licensed physi- 
cians. (Many states require physicians to update their training 
with a minimum number of hours' training each year.) 

In Sacramento, the medical-affairs committee of the Califor- 
nia legislature was considering whether changes in medical- 
school curricula were in order. A conspirator-psychologist and 
friend of the committee chairman announced himself — "I rep- 
resent the non-physicians of the state of California" — and pro- 
ceeded to make recommendations for humanizing the educa- 
tion of future doctors. 

When the medical-college deans protested that the 
suggested changes would be too difficult and complicated, he 
said mildly, "I agree. Innovation probably is too difficult for our 
medical schools." The deans backtracked at once. Well, maybe 
it wasn't that difficult. 

266 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

But above and beyond the conscious assistance of the Aquar- 
ian Conspiracy, the implosion of knowledge and the failure of 
"rational medicine" are inexorable forces for change. 

Life has not been easy for most doctors caught in the 
paradigm shift. They are between generations, not young 
enough to move smoothly into the new concepts, not old 
enough to have died with the technological dream and the 
mystique of the doctor. 

Many health-care professionals around the country have 
been serving as the kind of "transforming leadership" de- 
scribed by James MacGregor Bums (see Chapter 7). In a way, 
they are trying to break their own cultural trance, for Western 
medical training is a narrow subculture, what one medical an- 
thropologist called "the harsh Galenic tradition." 

The holistic ideal is hardly new. In the prestigious journal 
Science, in an essay titled "The Need for a New Medical 
Model," George Engel pointed out that the approach had been 
attempted at Johns Hopkins medical school before 1920. In The 
Will to Live (1950), Arnold Hutschnecker, a physician, made a 
vigorous case for bodymind medicine. The physician's preoc- 
cupation with disease and the psychoanalyst's preoccupation 
with the mind would be synthesized, for the truth is not a 
monopoly of either branch of medicine. "They will meet and 
fuse, and their fusion will be found most profoundly in the 
general practitioner." 

What Hutschnecker could not have foreseen was the rapid 
disappearance of the general practitioner. In 1950 nearly 90 
percent of the graduates of medical school went into family 
practice. By 1970 that figure had dropped to less than 10 percent. 
Mind and body were not only treated by separate camps but 
every part of the body became somebody's turf. 

Specialization was the understandable, perhaps even inevit- 
able, result of an increasing reliance by medical schools on the 
Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). According to Harri- 
son Gough, a psychologist at the University of California, Ber- 
keley, who has been studying medical students since 1951, the 
test shaped a generation of American medicine by selecting 
students of a particular temperament. As higher scores were 
required for admission, the test eliminated many "doers and 
good workers" in favor of those with a strong academic orienta- 
tion. These scholarly types tended to go into research or into 
specialties like radiology and anesthesiology. "Reliance on the 
test produced a generation of doctors who didn't want to talk to 
a patient about how his stomach hurt." 

Healing Ourselves 2 67 

Gough discovered over the years that the most creative med- 
ical students were the likeliest to drop out. “It's not that they 
weren't fit to be doctors. They just couldn't tolerate the chain 
gang — the highly scheduled lockstep program of medical 

Especially in recent years, many of the best potential doctors 
did not even make it to the dropout stage. Increasingly intense 
competition for relatively few spaces meant that spectacular 
grade averages were prerequisite to admission. Warmth, intui- 
tion, and imagination are precisely the characteristics likely to 
be screened out by the emphasis on scholastic standing and test 
scores. The right brain, in effect, was being denied admission 
to medical school. There were no quotas for creativity. 

In April 1977, nearly thirty thousand applicants took a 
dramatically different MCAT for 1978-79 entry to medical 
school. By its very nature, the new test blunted the sharp com- 
petitive edge that once favored science majors. It enabled non- 
science majors to qualify for admission. Furthermore, it 
screened for characteristics never before tested: the ability to 
synthesize, to see patterns, to extrapolate, to ignore irrelevant 
data. There were few cut-and-dried answers. 

The new MCAT was the first truly new test for medical 
school admission since 1946. The American Association of 
Medical Colleges, which had commissioned the test at a cost of 
one million dollars, has begun actively considering strategies 
for evaluating the kinds of human traits likely to make a good 
doctor. A spokesman said, “Everyone agrees that the traits not 
tapped by cognitive tests are important — perhaps more critical 
than a candidate's knowledge of medicine." 

The medical colleges are also assessing the impact of the 
curriculum itself on the student's personality. A former dean of 
the Harvard Medical School remarked that “there is less intel- 
lectual freedom in the medical course than in almost any other 
form of professional education in this country." Howard Hiatt, 
dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, urged the 
broadening of medical education, too long “isolated from the 
richness of the university's mainstream." 

The new test, by requiring only knowledge from first-year 
science courses, is expected to encourage pre-med students to 
take courses in the humanities. In fact, there is a small but 
significant trend among medical schools to encourage the ap- 
plications of non-science majors. At McMaster University in 
Hamilton, Ontario, entering medical students are about evenly 
divided between science and humanities majors. 

268 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

Medical students are starting to demand (and even organize) 
courses in nutrition, psychosomatic medicine, biofeedback, 
acupuncture, and other non traditional alternatives. 

In a lecture to the faculty and alumni of the University of 
California-San Francisco medical school, an intern, Scott May, 
urged the respect and nurturance of feminine principles. He 
listed examples of the exaggerated masculine orientation: the 
medical schools' pushing students to ignore the exhaustion of 
their own bodies, the "objectification” of the patient which 
keeps the doctor from understanding his own feelings, the lack 
of compassion, the suicides and breakdowns and drug abuse 
among doctors. "Value, don't deprecate, those students who 
are less thick-skinned, less distant from their own feelings and 
those of the patients. Look for them on the admissions commit- 
tee." He urged his classmates, "Remember your heart. . . ." 

A Yale medical student, Tom Ferguson, launched a success- 
ful publication, Medical Self Care, offering articles on nutrition, 
psychology, exercise, psychotechnologies, herbs, drugs, as- 
sorted alternatives. Ferguson also started an adult-education 
program, saying, "The way the medical-school curriculum is 
set up now, people interested in medicine for very humanistic 
reasons are put into situations where they're kept away from 
patients for two, three, or even four years." To get human 
contact, frustrated students at the University of Louisville 
School of Medicine set up their own free clinic. 

Younger doctors see themselves in partnership with non- 
physicians. Their view was typified in a letter to the American 
Medical News editor protesting an article that had characterized 
chiropractors as cultists. The student said, "Let's work with 
chiropractors." Old issues of power (who has the expertise, 
who deserves more authority) are fading. Psychologists are as 
influential as MDs in a number of innovative medical pro- 
grams. In California, a doctorate in mental health is being ex- 
perimentally offered — a blend of psychiatry, psychology, and 
social- work courses. Old hierarchical distinctions fall away: 
Psychiatrists seek advice from psychologists, orthopedists from 
chiropractors, ophthalmologists from optometrists. Nurse- 
practitioners, midwives, family counselors, lay counselors, 
clergymen, folk healers, body therapists, physicists, medical 
engineers — anybody can contribute to holistic medicine. As an 
anatomist at a California medical school put it, "We all have a 
piece of the truth. Nobody has it all." Harvard's Hiatt said: 

The days of the physician as the sole central figure in the 

Healing Ourselves 269 

health arena are over. No matter how able the doctor 
is ... we need other professionals involved in the system 
because medical care, no matter how well delivered, is not 
the sole solution to most of the health problems that con- 
front us. 

These issues demand input from law and economics, Hiatt 
said, as well as from the biological sciences, mathematics, pub- 
lic policy, business, journalism, ethics, education . 5 


Everything of importance is already known, a sage said — the 
only thing is to rediscover it. Much of the current excitement 
about healing is a kind of collective remembering, a home- 
coming to the old wives and old doctors. Hippocrates, with his 
insistence on the importance of mind and milieu, could have 
warned us of the consequences of medical pigeonholing. 

Scientific discoveries about the richness and complexity of 
nature reveal the poverty of our usual approaches to health, 
especially our efforts to deal externally, forcefully, and inva- 
sively with systems whose delicate balance can only be cor- 
rected if the inner physician is recruited. Just as outer reforms 
have limited effect on the body politic, external treatments are 
insufficient to heal the body if the spirit is in conflict. 

In many instances traditional ways are being re-adopted, not 
out of nostalgia but because we recognize that our “modern" 
approaches have been an aberration, an attempt to impose 
some sort of clumsy order on a nature far more ordered than 
we can imagine. For example, the twentieth century gave us 
four-hour bottle feedings of infants, induced labor of child- 
birth and Caesarian-section deliveries for the convenience of 
hospitals and doctors, birth and death segregated into isolated, 
sterile environments empty of human consolation. 

In a typical modern delivery, drugged babies are taken from 
drugged mothers, pulled into a shock of bright lights and loud 
noises, tied up, wrapped, and placed in plastic boxes. Their 

5 In late 1979, in response to lawsuits and government pressure, the AMA 
began circulating a new code of ethics allowing physicians to cooperate with 
nonphysicians. Psychologists were also challenging physicians' groups and 
insurors in the courts, demanding their right to be included in health-care 

270 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

fathers see them through glass, their siblings not at all. Yet we 
know now that mothers and infants become physically and 
emotionally “bonded" if given time enough together im- 
mediately after birth: The eye contact, touching, smiling, and 
feeding seem to have a long-term effect on their rapport and 
the child's later development. Practices from other cultures and 
revived customs from our own show us the startling benefits of 
natural behavior toward the newborn: a mother's cuddling, a 
father's play, human milk furnishing substances crucial to de- 
velopment, the human voice triggering micromovements in 
the infant. 

The importance of bonding has been quantified by crosscul- 
tural studies that have shown strong correlations between 
bonding and the mother's later sensitivity, the child's long- 
term IQ, and reduced instances of abuse or neglect. There 
seems to be a paternal bonding as well. Swedish fathers al- 
lowed to handle their babies in the hospital were much more 
involved with them three months later. Long-range studies 
have shown greater social competence in children whose 
fathers were involved in their infant care. 

At first the interest in bonding was dismissed by the medical 
profession. Capitulation, when it came, was sudden and unex- 
pected. In 1978 the AMA announced its endorsement of obstet- 
ric approaches that consider the importance of mother-infant 

Obviously, modern hospitals were not designed for family 
childbirth, a factor that caused an enormous wave of home 
births in recent years. At first this trend was looked on with 
alarm by the medical profession, but the first major evaluation 
of safety was a shocker. Studying nearly twelve hundred cases 
of home childbirth, the California State Department of Health 
found them safer than the state average on every count. (The 
mothers, who had been screened for major risk, were not quite 
representative of the general population.) More than twice as 
many babies died in the hospital deliveries, and midwives out- 
performed physicians when it came to handling complications! 
(For example, the midwives' techniques kept lacerations 
to around 5 percent, compared to 40 percent in physician 

In the face of consumer revolt, a growing number of hospi- 
tals have attempted to compete. The obstetric ward is "a home 
away from home," a humane environment with access to 
emergency facilities. In the New Life Center at Family Hospital 
in Milwaukee, the Alternative Birth Centers at San Francisco 

Healing Ourselves 271 

General and Hollywood Presbyterian, parents and other chil- 
dren are together in homelike quarters, listening to music, visit- 
ing during the mother's labor, sharing meals. 

Many hospitals have adopted the delivery method of French 
obstetrician Frederic Leboyer. The baby is born into a dimly lit 
environment in silence and then gently welcomed, massaged, 
placed in a warm bath. A physician at Rush-Presbyterian St. 
Luke's Medical Center in Chicago remarked on the "almost 
universal smile" that appears as the baby stretches. A Florida 
physician told his colleagues, "It's a concept, not a procedure." 

Leboyer has described his gradual discovery of the aware- 
ness and intelligence of the newborn, a phenomenon he had 
been educated against in his medical training. "A person is 
there, fully conscious, deserving of respect." A French experi- 
ment studied one hundred and twenty babies delivered by the 
Leboyer method, all from working-class mothers who knew 
nothing of the method when they arrived at the hospital for 
delivery. These babies scored higher on psychomotor scales 
than the average infant, had superior digestion, walked earlier, 
and were surprisingly likely to be ambidextrous! 

Leboyer was among the speakers at a 1978 Los Angeles con- 
ference organizing Our Ultimate Investment, a foundation de- 
voted to "conscious childbirth," sponsored by Laura Huxley, 
widow of Aldous Huxley. Strong convictions about the spiri- 
tual and psychological aspects of childbirth, infant care, and 
bonding have led to the formation of a network, NAPSAC (the 
National Association of Parents and Professionals for Safe Al- 
ternatives in Childbirth). Widespread interest around the coun- 
try has inspired conferences, seminars, books, and informal 
mutual-support networks. It has greatly increased support for 
established natural approaches to birth, like the Lamaze 
method, and the La Leche League, a mutual-help network for 
women wishing to breastfeed their babies. 

A woman who filled out the Aquarian Conspiracy question- 
naire described the birth of her child at home as "a drugless 
psychedelic high, a peak experience." Her husband, who 
delivered the baby, also ranked the birth as a high point in his 
life, "being bom a parent." The mother said she was grateful to 
all the women who had preceded her "in bearing children in 
their own way, reclaiming birth from the field of medicine and 
giving it back to parents and children, to whom it belongs." 

And just as increasing numbers of prospective parents are 
demanding home births or homelike settings, many of the 

272 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

dying are coming home to die or are seeking ou4 the few avail- 
able hospices, which are humane centers for the terminally ill 
modeled after St. Christopher's in London. Advocates of the 
hospice movement have described it as "a concept rather than a 
specific place/' just as the Leboyer method was called a concept 
rather than a technique. "The hospice movement," said a Sci- 
ence report on a two-day meeting on hospices at the National 
Institutes of Health, "far from being a separate and specialized 
phenomenon, supplies a model for getting the whole health 
system back on the track." 

"It is ultimately the concept of life, not the concept of death, 
which rules the question of the right to die," remarked Hans 
Jonas, a professor of philosophy at the New School for Social 
Research. "The trust of medicine is the wholeness of life. Its 
commitment is to keep the flame of life burning, not its embers 
glimmering. Least of all is it the infliction of suffering and 
indignity." The technology of slow death — tubes, respirators — 
can now be rejected in many states in the name of "the right 
to die." 6 

The Shanti Project in Berkeley employs lay and professional 
counselors for the loving guidance of the dying and their 
families. At the Center for Attitudinal Healing in Tiburon, 
California, psychiatrist Gerald Jampolsky supervises a group of 
children with life-threatening illnesses like leukemia. They 
meet in each other's homes once a week to share their fears, 
meditate together, and convey healing thoughts to those 
among them in crisis. A grant from Pacific Bell has made it 
possible for the center to sponsor a telephone support network 
so that children around the country can talk to each other about 
their shared experiences of dangerous illness. 

Of all the self-fulfilling prophecies in our culture, the as- 
sumption that aging means decline and poor health is probably 
the deadliest. Although research has demonstrated that there 
are many ways to age, we set ourselves up for senility or death. 
We draw the aging away from meaningful work: The elderly 
rich are tempted into sunny, childless ghettos and the elderly 
poor are left in neighborhoods long since abandoned by 
families. Even the ambulant ill are often segregated in nursing 

6 One indicator of turnabout in medicine: Twenty years ago only 10 percent of 
the physicians polled believed patients should be told that they have cancer, 
whereas a recent survey found that 97 percent favor telling them. 

Healing Ourselves 273 

But revolution is upon us. Not only is a vocal minority chant- 
ing, “Hell, no, we won't go," but sympathetic younger genera- 
tions are likely to be even more militant. Maggie Kuhn of the 
Gray Panthers typifies the Radical Center of the new views 
toward aging: 

Let's not pit ourselves against the young. We don't want to 
be adversaries. And you young people — together, we will 
conspire. We need radical social change, a new agenda. 
Such an agenda would include age-integrated housing, an 
end to mandatory retirement. 

Together we can devise holistic health centers — to chal- 
lenge and change, to point the way to large institutional 

We're experiencing a new kind of humanness and our 
corporate power to change society. 

I'm sorry when my peers put all their efforts into obtain- 
ing services, like reduced utility rates. Services are Novo- 
cain. They dull the pain but they don't solve the problem. 

We can be coalition builders. And we can experiment. 
Those of us who are old can afford to live dangerously. We 
have less to lose. 

Kuhn urges her peers to take college courses, to become in- 
volved in self-actualizing activities, to launch imaginative en- 
terprises. A group of Gray Panthers in one city jointly pur- 
chased several old houses to renovate, occupy, and rent. 

The national SAGE program — Senior Actualizations and 
Growth Explorations — combines spiritual and body therapies: 
acupuncture, meditation, T'ai Chi, music, even opportunities 
for barter. A recently founded National Association for 
Humanistic Gerontology is comprised of professionals in- 
terested in fostering alternative approaches to aging. Individu- 
als of any age may join chapters of the Phenix Club founded by 
Jerome Ellison. The activities and mutual support are designed 
to make the second half of life a creative, spiritual adventure. 

Predictably, there are also new approaches to treating psy- 
chiatric disorders. Medical science is less sure these days of the 
efficacy of its conventional methods, including the major tran- 
quilizing drugs. The new drugs greatly increased the number 
of hospitalized patients who could resume functioning in the 
world, but they did little for the inner dissonance that helped 
trigger psychosis. 

274 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

Psychiatry in the West is beginning to respect the insight of 
those societies that view madness as an attempt to break 
through to new vision. Acute psychosis may be a feverish 
strategy to transcend conflict, a sometimes valuable natural 
process rather than a symptom to be quickly eradicated. 
Sanctuary and understanding are often more effective than the 
powerful but temporary chemical adjustment usually given to 
psychotic individuals. In one California study young male 
schizophrenics who were not given drugs recovered from their 
acute psychoses about two weeks later than those given 
Thorazine, but they were far less often readmitted over the 
course of the next year. 

Psychiatry means, literally, “doctoring the soul." It is un- 
likely that great doses of tranquilizing drugs can heal a frac- 
tured soul; rather, they interrupt the pattern of distress and 
conflict by altering the brain's disturbed chemistry. Remember- 
ing that the brain can either deny or transform conflict, we can 
understand Karl Menninger's observation that many individu- 
als who recover from madness become “weller than well." 
They have reached a new level of integration, another example 
of stress driving individual evolution. 

Some communities have established retreats so that stressed 
persons can find rest and support before their conflict becomes 
more than they can handle. A few retreats also handle psychot- 
ic disturbances. Diabasis House in San Francisco and Crossing 
Place in Washington are residential structures that have proved 
valuable even for acutely psychotic patients and cost much less 
than psychiatric hospitals. 

All through history the fear of creative behavior and mystical 
states — of the intuitive side of human experience — has led to 
witch-hunts too various to name. Psychiatrist R. D. Laing 
blames this on the ambivalence of the society toward inner 
hungers, the consensus of denial of spiritual needs on which 
artists and mystics throughout history have been shipwrecked. 
Now increasing numbers of former mental patients have joined 
forces to oppose what they consider insensitive treatment of 
mental illness and to promote a greater reliance on such nonin- 
vasive therapies as biofeedback, meditation, nutrition, and 
sanctuary rather than drugs and electroshock. One such net- 
work is the Bay Area Association for Alternatives in Psychiatry. 
Many psychiatrists are looking at alternative therapies. 

There is also a growing interest in traditional and folk healing 
systems. Physicians, nurses, psychologists, and anthropolo- 

Healing Ourselves 275 

gists are looking into the shamanic (native healing) practices of 
many cultures: Chinese, Native American, Tibetan, African, 
Japanese. Insurance companies are now reimbursing the visits 
of Alaskan Eskimos to their shamans and Arizona Navajos to 
their medicine men. Shamanic healers help the sick look for 
meaning in the illness and see it in the context of their families 
or communities. Traditional healing systems view illness as a 
disturbance of the individual's harmony with others and with 

Brazil's popular medicine, sometimes called cur a (“curing"), 
may be a preview of the synthesis taking place in some parts of 
the world. Cura blends Western medicine, spiritual healing, 
herbalism, homeopathy, Amerindian and African healing trad- 
itions. Some sixty million Brazilians are estimated to partake of 
cura, with rapidly growing numbers among the well-educated 
and middle class. Cura involves body, emotions, soul. There is 
a great respect for the “moral ascendancy" of the healer as well 
as the expertise of formally trained physicians. Cura empha- 
sizes whatever works and establishes a support group for the 
individual in need of healing. 


“I am convinced that there is such a thing as healing power," 
Jerome Frank said at a New York conference on alternative 
medical approaches. But he expressed doubt that it will be 
evaluated clearly enough in the near future for full acceptance 
by Western scientists. 

Actually there is already something of a scientific grid 
through which we can understand a healing resonance be- 
tween people. Bell's theorem, the Bohm-Pribram holographic 
theories, and other radical proposals offer a model for under- 
standing the connectedness between persons. The image of the 
body as a responsive field of energy, predominant in Eastern 
philosophy, coincides with evidence that the acupuncture 
meridians are a reality and that the chakras of Buddhist lore 
may indeed have a basis in fact. Dolores Krieger, a professor of 
nursing at New York University, elegantly demonstrated 
changes in hemoglobin values in patients treated with a kind of 
"scanning" healing, in which practitioners do not actually 
touch the body but attempt to sense field changes — heat, cold, 
a tingling sensation — as their hands pass over particular re- 
gions of the body. 

276 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

There is other evidence of a healing effect: unusual brain- 
wave patterns in persons attempting to heal, enzyme changes, 
EEG shifts in the "healee," inexplicable tumor remissions, and 
other rapid cures. Medical interest is high. Krieger's method, 
for example, has been taught in day-long therapeutic touch 
workshops to thousands around the country, mostly nurses, 
and Krieger herself has been invited by several New York hos- 
pitals to teach the method to their entire nursing staffs. A 
number of doctors are now using similar methods. 

Unorthodox healers like Rolling Thunder, Olga Worrall, Paul 
Solomon, and Jack Schwarz have lectured to medical schools 
and conducted workshops for doctors and medical students. 

While psychic healing may prove a useful adjunct to 
medicine in the future, it is unlikely to become a primary mode 
of treatment — for a simple reason. A “healer” is ministering in 
much the same way as a doctor, doing something to the pa- 
tient. Shamanic healers — the curanderos of South America, for 
instance — tell those they treat that they can affect the 
symptoms but they cannot change the inner process that pro- 
duces disease. The symptom may disappear for a time but too 
often the deeper matrix of disease has not been changed. Only 
the individual can effect a healing from within. 

A healing state of mind has specific benefits for the healer, 
however, and for the rapport between therapist and sufferer. A 
British scientist has observed a particular configuration of brain 
rhythms in most of the spiritual healers he has tested. (England 
has thousands of licensed healers, and they are permitted to 
work in hospitals.) One anxious physician wired to the brain- 
wave device did not show that pattern. Finally the sympathetic 
researcher said, “Imagine you are about to treat a patient. You 
have no medicine, no equipment. You have nothing to give but 
your compassion." Suddenly the physician's brainwave activity 
shifted into the “healing state" pattern. 

Robert Swearingen, a Colorado orthopedist, tells of finding 
himself with an emergency-room patient in intense pain be- 
cause of a dislocated shoulder. The rest of the clinic staff was 
attending to a more critical emergency, so he could not call for a 
nurse to deliver tranquilizers and anesthetic. 

At that moment I felt overwhelmed by a sense of impo- 
tence, of dependence on technology. Partly to reassure the 
patient, partly to calm myself, I began urging him to relax. 
Suddenly I felt the shoulder let down — and I knew that 
with the patient's cooperation I could slip it into place 
without pain or pain medication. 

Healing Ourselves 277 

The experience changed his entire career, not only because he 
was then able to teach the painless procedure to nearly anyone, 
but also because he discovered the crucial importance of the 
human element in medicine. He also found that he could 
achieve a nonverbal rapport with patients, a kind of "listening" 
that led to intuitive diagnosis beyond anything his technology 
had given him. 

A famous psychologist once remarked privately that 
biofeedback is the ultimate placebo, an intermediate step for 
those clinicians and patients reassured by "hard" science, who 
have not yet noticed that all the action is in a soft brain and 
vanishes into whirling particles on closer inspection. "It's all in 
the imagination," he said. We can have it as we imagine and as 
we will. 

In the sixteenth century Paracelsus observed that the physi- 
cians of his day "know only a small part of the power of will." 
Yet on another level, we always knew that you can die of a 
broken heart, that a woman's prolonged distress can disturb 
her unborn baby, that old people don't grow senile if they 
maintain an interest in life. 

Surely historians will marvel at the heresy we fell into, the 
recent decades in which we disregarded the spirit in our efforts 
to cure the body. Now, in finding health, we find ourselves. 



and Seeing: 
New Ways 
to Learn 

I would like to be able to fly if everyone else did, but 
otherwise it would be kind of conspicuous. 

— Twelve-year-old girl quoted by 
DAVID RIESMAN in The Lonely Crowd 

'Tis ye, 'tis your estranged faces, 

That miss the many-splendored thing. 


We are in the early morning of understanding our 
place in the universe and our spectacular latent pow- 
ers, the flexibility and transcendence of which we are 
capable. The scientific breakthroughs are throwing 

out a challenge: If our memories are as absorbent as research 

has demonstrated, our awareness as wide, our brains and 

bodies as sensitive; if we can will changes in our physiology at 
the level of a single cell; if we are heirs to such evolutionary 
virtuosity — how can we be performing and learning at such 
mediocre levels? If we're so rich, why aren't we smart? 

This chapter is about learning in its broadest sense. It's about 
our surprising capacities, new sources of knowledge, mastery, 
creativity. It's about the learner within, waiting to be free. 


2 80 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

And it's about how the learner came to be unfree . . . about 
our culture's great learning disability, an educational system 
that emphasizes being "right" at the expense of being open. 
We begin to see the unease and disease of our adult lives as 
elaborate patterns that emerged from a system that taught us 
young how to be still, look backward, look to authority, con- 
struct certainties. The fear of learning — and transformation — is 
the inevitable product of such a system. 

This is the poignant human paradox: a plastic brain capable 
of endless self-transcendence, equally capable of being trained 
into self-limiting behavior. It is evident even in newborn 
babies, who have been shown by modern research techniques 
to be incredibly sensitive, seeking out patterns, reacting to sub- 
tle emotions in the human voice, attracted to faces, discriminat- 
ing between colors. But science has also shown how easily 
newborns can be programmed. They can be conditioned to 
respond to a light or a bell not unlike the salivating dogs in 
Pavlov's famous experiments. Both Teilhard and Skinner were 
right: We are capable of evolutionary leaps and conditioning in 

You can only have a new society, the visionaries have said, if 
you change the education of the younger generation. Yet the 
new society itself is the necessary force for change in education. 
It's like the old dilemma: You can't get a job without expe- 
rience, but you can't get experience because no one will give 
you a job. 

Schools are entrenched bureaucracies whose practitioners do 
not compete for business, do not need to get re-elected or to 
attract patients, customers, clients. Those educators who 
would like to innovate have relatively little authority to change 
their style. 

The consumer cannot simply boycott this institution. Private 
schools are beyond the reach of most families and may not be 
an improvement over public schools. Yet some parents are now 
saying that deliberate withdrawal of their children from com- 
pulsory schooling — an illegal act in most states — is not unlike 
draft resisting in an immoral war. 

Of the Aquarian Conspirators surveyed, more were involved 
in education than in any other single category of work. They 
were teachers, administrators, policymakers, educational 
psychologists. Their consensus: Education is one of the least 
dynamic of institutions, lagging far behind medicine, psychol- 
ogy, politics, the media, and other elements of our society. 

They are, as one expressed it, "in peaceful struggle" within 

Flying and Seeing 281 

the system. There are heroes in education, as there have always 
been heroes, trying to transcend the limits of the old structure; 
but their efforts are too often thwarted by peers, adminis- 
trators, parents. Mario Fantini, former Ford consultant on edu- 
cation, now at the State University of New York, said bluntly, 
“The psychology of becoming has to be smuggled into the 

Yet there are reasons for optimism. Our error has been in 
assuming that we had to start with the schools. Schools are 
an effect of the way we think — and we can change the way 
we think. 

“The fallacy of the back-to-basics movement and the vast 
majority of educational reform efforts in this country," said 
John Williamson, former director of planning and policy de- 
velopment for the National Institute of Education, "has been 
the failure of our common-sense point of view." We have over- 
looked the critical variables, he said — the limiting personal be- 
liefs of our students, the consciousness of our educators, the 
intention of our communities. 

Beliefs. Consciousness. Intention. We can see why piecemeal 
reform is hopeless, for the problems are mired in our old no- 
tions of human nature, and they are intricately related. The 
inability of conventional education to teach basic skills and the 
failure to foster self-esteem are part of the same deep misman- 
agement and misperception. 

Perhaps the back-to-basics movement could be channeled 
deeper — to bedrock fundamentals, the underlying principles 
and relationships, real “universal" education. Then we can re- 
claim our sense of place. 

Only a new perspective can generate a new curriculum, new 
levels of adjustment. Just as political parties are peripheral to 
the change in the distribution of power, so the schools are not 
the first arena for change in learning. 

Subtle forces are at work, factors you are not likely to see in 
banner headlines. For example, tens of thousands of classroom 
teachers, educational consultants and psychologists, coun- 
selors, administrators, researchers, and faculty members in col- 
leges of education have been among the millions engaged in 
personal transformation. They have only recently begun to link 
regionally and nationally, to share strategies, to conspire for 
the teaching of all they most value: freedom, high expectations, 
awareness, patterns, connections, creativity. They are eager to 
share their discoveries with those colleagues ready to listen. 

And many are ready, veterans of earlier, partially successful 

282 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

movements to humanize the schools. They have learned a lot. 
Much as social activism moved in recent years from confronta- 
tion to cooperation and from external to internal healing, edu- 
cational reformers are shifting their emphasis. And there is 
power in the new alignment of parents and educators. Teach- 
ers, administrators, and sympathetic school-board members 
are working together rather than confronting one another. 

These networks have an ally in scientific research . We are be- 
ginning to realize, with appalling clarity, how unnatural many 
of our educational methods have been and why they worked 
poorly, if at all. Research in brain function and consciousness 
demonstrates that teaching must change if we are to tap our 

Another strong force for change: crisis. All the failures of 
education, like a fever, signal a deep struggle for health. The 
business of the Aquarian Conspiracy is calm diagnosis of that 
illness — to make it clear that synthesis is needed — paradigm 
change rather than pendulum change. 

If the streambed of education is being enlarged, one formi- 
dable force altering its contours is competition. Learning is 
where you find it: on “Sesame Street," in inner games of tennis 
and the Zen of everything, in teaching and learning coopera- 
tives, in computers, on FM radio, in self-help books, in maga- 
zines, cassettes, and television documentaries. 

The most potent force for change, however, is the growing 
recognition of millions of adults that their own impoverished 
expectations and frustrations came, in large measure, from 
their schooling. 


If we are not learning and teaching we are not awake and alive. 
Learning is not only like health, it is health. 

As the greatest single social influence during the formative 
years, schools have been the instruments of our greatest denial, 
unconsciousness, conformity, and broken connections. Just as 
allopathic medicine treats symptoms without concern for the 
whole system, schools break knowledge and experience into 
“subjects," relentlessly turning wholes into parts, flowers into 
petals, history into events, without ever restoring continuity. 
Or, as Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner observed in 
Teaching as a Subversive Activity : 

Flying and Seeing 283 

English is not History and History is not Science and Sci- 
ence is not Art and Art is not Music, and Art and Music are 
minor subjects and English, History and Science major 
subjects, and a subject is something you “take" and when 
you have taken it, you have “had" it, and if you have 
“had" it, you are immune and need not take it again. (The 
Vaccination Theory of Education?) 

Worse yet, not only is the mind broken, but too often, so is 
the spirit. Allopathic teaching produces the equivalent of iat- 
rogenic, or “doctor-caused," illness — teacher- caused learning 
disabilities. We might call these pedogenic illnesses. The child 
who may have come to school intact, with the budding courage 
to risk and explore, finds stress enough to permanently di- 
minish that adventure. 

Even doctors, in their heyday as godlike paragons, have 
never wielded the authority of a single classroom teacher, who 
can purvey prizes, failure, love, humiliation, and information 
to great numbers of relatively powerless, vulnerable young 

Dis-ease, not feeling comfortable about ourselves, probably 
begins for many of us in the classroom. One biofeedback clini- 
cian remarked that the correlation between stressful memories 
and arousal of the body can be demonstrated. If a biofeedback 
subject is asked to think about school memories, the feedback 
shows immediate alarm. In one PTA workshop, every adult 
asked to write about a remembered school incident described a 
negative or traumatic event. Many adults describe nightmares 
of being in school again, late for class or having failed to turn in 
an assignment. 

Most of us seem to have considerable unfinished business 
with school. This residue of anxiety may intimidate us yet on 
some level of consciousness; it may forever pull us back from 
challenges and new learning. 

In Chapter 8 we noted the impressive research associating 
personality characteristics with diseases — the cancer patient's 
difficulty in expressing grief or anger, for example, or the heart 
patient's obsession with schedules and achievements. Is it 
possible that our authoritarian, achievement-geared, fear- 
inducing, clock-watching schools have helped set us up for the 
illness of our choice? Were we discouraged from expressing 
honest anger, sorrow, frustration? Were we urged to compete, 
strive, fear tardiness and deadlines? 

284 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

Noel Mclnnis, an educator concerned with the physical envi- 
ronments for learning, described the process: For twelve years 
we confine the child's body to a limited territory, his energy to 
a limited activity, his senses to limited stimulation, his so- 
ciability to a limited number of peers, his mind to limited expe- 
rience of the world around him. "What will he learn?" Mclnnis 
asked. "To don't his own thing." 1 

Whereas the young need some sort of initiation into an un- 
certain world, we give them the bones from the culture's 
graveyards. Where they want to do real things, we give them 
abstract busywork, blank spaces to fill in with the "right" an- 
swers, multiple choices to see if they can choose the "right" 
answers. Where they need to find meaning, the schools ask 
memorization; discipline is divorced from intuition, pattern 
from parts. 

If wholeness is health, the violence done to both meaning 
and self-image by most of our educational institutions is a 
major source of disease in our culture— a force that fragments 
even the child from a secure and loving home. The trauma of 
Humpty Dumpty begins with the first denials of feeling, the 
first suppressed questions, the muted pain of boredom. No 
home can fully undo the effects of what Jonathan Kozol, de- 
scribing his experiences teaching ghetto children, called Death 
at an Early Age. 

Buckminster Fuller once remarked that neither he nor any- 
one else he knew was a genius: "Some of us are just less dam- 
aged than others." Like Margaret Mead, Fuller was essentially 
home-taught. Studies have shown that an impressive propor- 
tion of great, original achievers were educated at home, stimu- 

1 The wasted potential was dramatically illustrated in the Milwaukee Project, 
an experiment in the sixties sometimes known as Operation Babysnatch. 
Psychologists at the University of Wisconsin arranged for special attention to 
be given to babies born to a group of borderline feeble-minded women (IQs of 
70 or less). Normally, by the time they are sixteen, such children show intelli- 
gence as low as their mothers. Presumably, a dull mother cannot stimulate a 
baby's mind very much. 

Forty babies were picked up at their homes and taken to a university center 
where they were played with, sung to, and otherwise stimulated. Later they 
learned in small groups of toddlers. By the time they were four, these children 
scored a mean IQ of 128 on one test, 132 on another — in the range psycholo- 
gists label "intellectually gifted." These experimental children were brighter 
than the typical child from a superior, middle-class home. Forty children of 
comparable circumstances who had not received the extra attention scored IQs 
of 85 (very low normal) by age four. The magic of human interaction had made 
all the difference. 

Flying and Seeing 285 

lated by parents or other relatives from infancy, borne up by 
high expectations. 


Why have our schools routinely punished and diminished the 
young? Perhaps it's because schools as we know them were 
designed long before we had any understanding of the human 
brain and for a society long since superseded. Furthermore, 
they were designed to impart a fairly specific body of knowl- 
edge, from a period when knowledge seemed stable and 

It was enough to master the content of certain books and 
courses, learn the tricks of the trade, and you were finished. 
The student learned what he needed for his “field." The jour- 
neyman knew his job. Knowledge kept in its proper compart- 
ments, people in their departments. In the very short history of 
mass education — not much more than a century — schools went 
from teaching simple piety and fundamental literacy to even- 
tual instruction in the arts and social sciences. Education be- 
came “higher" and “higher" in terms of elaboration and 

But schools were always presumed to be carrying out the 
mandate of the society, or at least giving it their best effort. 
They taught for obedience or productivity or whatever trait 
seemed appropriate at the time, producing teachers for teacher 
shortages, scientists after we began worrying that we were fall- 
ing behind the Soviet Union scientifically after the launching of 

If now, as polls and some educators are saying, the society 
prizes self-actualization above all else . . . how do you teach? 

Millions of parents are disenchanted with conventional edu- 
cation, some because their children are not acquiring even sim- 
ple literacy, some because the schools are dehumanizing. One 
recent Oregon survey showed that the community gave equal 
weight to the importance of fostering self-esteem and teaching 
basic skills. 

A revision in the education code of California, authorizing all 
school districts to provide for alternative schools, emphasized 
the importance of developing in students “self-reliance, initia- 
tive, kindness, spontaneity, resourcefulness, courage, cre- 
ativity, responsibility, and joy" — a tall order. A study commis- 
sioned for the National Education Association, "Curriculum 

286 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

Change Toward the Twenty-first Century,” noted that we are 
entering a period of great discontinuity, change, and inter- 
dependence of people and events. 

Ironically, because their structure itself tends to paralyze 
them, school systems have responded slowly, if at all, to (1) 
new scientific findings relating to the mind and (2) changing 
values in the society. Knowledge in general moves very slowly 
into the schools; textbooks and curricula are typically years, 
even decades, behind what is known in any given field. Except 
at the level of university graduate schools, education is not a 
party to grapevines, speculation, breakthroughs, front-line re- 

A society shaken by an implosion of knowledge, a revolution 
in culture and communication, cannot wait for a creaking edu- 
cational bureaucracy to sanction its search for meaning. What 
we know of nature now has broken through the artifices of 
disciplinary boundaries; technology is accelerated so that tradi- 
tional careers vanish and new opportunities materialize sud- 
denly. New information is rushing together, dovetailing across 

The educational establishment has been nightmarishly slow 
in responding to our changing needs, slower than any other 
institution. At an increasingly high cost (nearly 8 percent of the 
Gross National Product, compared to 3.4 percent in 1951), the 
old forms are not working. New hardware and refurbished 
curricula are not enough. 2 


Innovations in education have crisscrossed the sky like Roman 
candles, and most sputtered quickly out, leaving only the smell 
of disenchantment in the air. Too often they addressed them- 
selves to only partial aspects of human nature, setting off skir- 
mishes: cognitive versus affective (emotional) learning, free 
versus structured settings. Max Lerner observed that theorists 
at both ends of the spectrum have long viewed American 
schools with an almost theological fervor. The other side is 
always charged with having destroyed the heavenly city. 

2 An example of the misuse of educational funds: In 1972 Edith Green, a 
member of Congress, revealed that 60 percent of the first year's budget of the 
federal Right- to-Read program had been misspent in unauthorized architec- 
tural and office decorating expenses, public relations, and salaries. 

Flying and Seeing 287 

Who killed our Eden? The humanists blame the technolo- 
gists, the behaviorists blame the humanists, the secularists 
the churches, the churches blame the lack of religious 
education, the fundamentalists blame the progressives, 
and on and on. 

In truth, we never had a heavenly city. Our public schools were 
designed, fairly enough, to create a modestly literate public, 
not to deliver quality education or produce great minds. 

The Radical Center of educational philosophy — the perspec- 
tive typical of the Aquarian Conspiracy — is a constellation of 
techniques and concepts sometimes called transpersonal educa- 
tion. The name derives from a branch of psychology that fo- 
cuses on the transcendent capacities of human beings. In 
transpersonal education, the learner is encouraged to be awake 
and autonomous, to question, to explore all the corners and 
crevices of conscious experience, to seek meaning, to test outer 
limits, to check out frontiers and depths of the self. 

In the past most educational alternatives have offered only 
pendulum change, pushing discipline (as in fundamental 
schools) or affective/emotional values (as in most free schools). 

In contrast to conventional education, which aims to adjust 
the individual to society as it exists, the "humanistic” educators 
of the 1960s maintained that the society should accept its mem- 
bers as unique and autonomous. Transpersonal experience 
aims for a new kind of learner and a new kind of society. 
Beyond self-acceptance, it promotes self- transcendence. 

Merely humanizing the educational environment was still 
something of a concession to the status quo. In too many cases 
the reformers were afraid to challenge the learner for fear of 
pushing too hard. They assumed old limits. (As we shall see in 
the next chapter, early efforts at "humanizing the workplace" 
also ran into the problem typical of partial solutions: They may 
be rejected before their full value is realized because they prom- 
ised more than they can deliver.) 

Transpersonal education is more humane than traditional 
education and more intellectually rigorous than many alterna- 
tives in the past. It aims to aid transcendence, not furnish mere 
coping skills. It is education's counterpart to holistic medicine: 
education of the whole person. 

One of the Aquarian Conspirators remarked, "Transpersonal 
education is the process of exposing people to the mysterious 

288 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

in themselves — and then getting out of the way so you don't 
get run over." But he warned against overselling to educators, 
who are understandably skeptical. "Schools have had so many 
'revolutions' over the past few years. The battleground is 
scarred. Don't promise miracles, even if you expect them." 

Phi Delta Kappan, the influential journal for school admini- 
strators, observed that transpersonal education holds potential 
for solving grave social crises, like juvenile crime, as well as 
enhancing learning. "Ill defined though it is," the journal said, 
"this movement is perhaps the dominant trend on the educa- 
tional scene today and presages a momentous revolution." 

Like holistic health, transpersonal education can happen 
anywhere. It doesn't need schools, but its adherents believe 
that the schools need it. Because of its power for social healing 
and awakening, they conspire to bring the philosophy into the 
classroom, in every grade, in colleges and universities, for job 
training and adult education. 

Unlike most educational reform in the past, it is imbedded in 
sound science: systems theory, an understanding of the integra- 
tion of mind and body, knowledge of the two major modes of 
consciousness and how they interact, the potential of altered 
and expanded states of consciousness. It emphasizes the con- 
tinuum of knowledge, rather than "subjects," and the common 
ground of human experience, transcending ethnic or national 
differences. It aids the learner's search for meaning, the need to 
discern forms and patterns, the hunger for harmony. It 
deepens awareness of how a paradigm shifts, how frustration 
and struggle precede insights. 

Transpersonal education promotes friendly environments for 
hard tasks. It celebrates the individual and society, freedom 
and responsibility, uniqueness and interdependence, mystery 
and clarity, tradition and innovation. It is complementary, 
paradoxical, dynamic. It is education's Middle Way. 

The larger paradigm looks to the nature of learning rather 
than methods of instruction. Learning, after all, is not schools, 
teachers, literacy, math, grades, achievement. It is the process 
by which we have moved every step of the way since we first 
breathed; the transformation that occurs in the brain whenever 
new information is integrated, whenever a new skill is mas- 
tered. Learning is kindled in the mind of the individual. Any- 
thing else is mere schooling. 

The new paradigm reflects both the discoveries of modern 
science and the discoveries of personal transformation. 

Flying and Seeing 


Emphasis on content, 
acquiring a body of 
"right" information, 
once and for all. 

Learning as a product, 
a destination. 

Hierarchical and 
authoritarian structure. 
Rewards conformity, 
discourages dissent. 

Relatively rigid structure, 
prescribed curriculum. 

Lockstep progress, 
emphasis on the 
"appropriate" ages 
for certain activities, 
age segregation. 
Compartmentalized . 

Priority on performance. 

Emphasis on external 
world. Inner experience 
often considered 
inappropriate in 
school setting. 


Emphasis on learning 
how to learn, how to 
ask good questions, 
pay attention to the 
right things, be open 
to and evaluate new 
concepts, have access to 
information. What is now 
"known" may change. 
Importance of context. 

Learning as a process, 
a journey. 

Egalitarian. Candor and 
dissent permitted. 
Students and teachers 
see each other as people, 
not roles. Encourages 

Relatively flexible 
structure. Belief that there 
are many ways to teach a 
given subject. 

Flexibility and integration 
of age groupings. 
Individual not 
automatically limited to 
certain subject matter 
by age. 

Priority on self-image 
as the generator of 

Inner experience seen as 
context for learning. Use 
of imagery, storytelling, 
dream journals, 
"centering" exercises, and 
exploration of feelings 

290 The Aquarian Conspiracy 


Guessing and divergent 
thinking discouraged. 

Emphasis on analytical, 
linear, left-brain thinking. 

Labeling (remedial, 
gifted, minimally brain 
dysfunctional, etc.) 
contributes to self- 
fulfilling prophecy. 

Concern with norms. 

Primary reliance on 
theoretical, abstract 
"book knowledge." 

Classrooms designed for 
efficiency, convenience. 


Guessing and divergent 
thinking encouraged as 
part of the creative 

Strives for whole-brain 
education. Augments 
left-brain rationality with 
holistic, nonlinear, and 
intuitive strategies. 
Confluence and fusion 
of the two processes 

Labeling used only in 
minor prescriptive role 
and not as fixed 
evaluation that dogs the 
individual's educational 

Concern with the 
individual's performance 
in terms of potential. 
Interest in testing outer 
limits, transcending 
perceived limitations. 

Theoretical and abstract 
knowledge heavily 
complemented by 
experiment and 
experience, both in and 
out of classroom. Field 
trips, apprenticeships, 
demonstrations, visiting 

Concern for the 
environment of learning: 
lighting, colors, air, 
physical comfort, needs 
for privacy and 
interaction, quiet and 
exuberant activities. 

Flying and Seeing 291 


determined, resistant 
to community input. 

Education seen as a social 
necessity for a certain 
period of time, to 
inculcate minimum skills 
and train for a specific 

Increasing reliance on 
technology (audiovisual 
equipment, computers, 
tapes, texts), 
dehumanization . 

Teacher imparts 
knowledge; one-way 


Encourages community 
input, even community 

Education seen as lifelong 
prqcess, one only 
tangentially related to 

Appropriate technology, 
human relationships 
between teachers and 
learners of primary 

Teacher is learner, too, 
learning from students. 

The old assumptions generate questions about how to achieve 
norms, obedience, and correct answers. The new assumptions 
lead to questions about how to motivate for lifelong learning, 
how to strengthen self-discipline, how to awaken curiosity, 
and how to encourage creative risk in people of all ages. 


Think of the learner as an open system — a dissipative structure, 
as described in Chapter 6, interacting with the environment, 
taking in information, integrating it, using it. The learner is 
transforming the input, ordering and reordering, creating 
coherence. His worldview is continually enlarged to incorpo- 
rate the new. From time to time it breaks and is reformed, as in 
the acquiring of major new skills and concepts: learning to 
walk, speak, read, swim, or write; learning a second language 
or geometry. Each is a kind of paradigm shift. 

A learning shift is preceded by stress whose intensity ranges 
across a continuum: uneasiness, excitement, creative tension, 
confusion, anxiety, pain, fear. The surprise and fear in learning 
are described in The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda: 

292 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

He slowly begins to learn — bit by bit at first, then in big 
chunks. And his thoughts soon clash. What he learns is 
never what he pictured, or imagined, and so he begins to 
be afraid. Learning is never what one expects. Every step 
of learning is a new task, and the fear the man is experienc- 
ing begins to mount mercilessly, unyieldingly. His pur- 
pose has become a battlefield 

He must not run away. He must defy his fear, and in 
spite of it he must take the next step in learning, and the 
next, and the next. He must be fully afraid, and yet he 
must not stop. That is the rule! And a moment will come 
when his first enemy retreats. Learning is no longer a ter- 
rifying task. 

The transforming teacher senses readiness to change, helps 
the "follower" or student respond to more complex needs, 
transcending the old levels again and yet again. The true 
teacher is also learning and is transformed by the relationship. 
Just as Bums pointed out that a dictator is not a true leader 
because he is not open to input from his followers, a closed 
teacher — the mere "power wielder" — is not a tme teacher. 

The closed teacher may fill the student with information. But 
the learner forfeits his participation. The students, like the citi- 
zens of a dictatorship, are unable to feed their needs and readi- 
ness back to the one who is supposed to facilitate their growth. 
It is like the difference between a loudspeaker and an intercom. 

The open teacher, like a good therapist, establishes rapport 
and resonance, sensing unspoken needs, conflicts, hopes, and 
fears. Respecting the learner's autonomy, the teacher spends 
more time helping to articulate the urgent questions than de- 
manding right answers. 

Timing and nonverbal communication are critical, as we shall 
see. The learner senses the teacher's perceptions of his readi- 
ness, the teacher's confidence or skepticism. He "reads" the 
teacher's expectations. The tme teacher intuits the level of read- 
iness, then probes, questions, leads. The teacher allows time 
for assimilation, even retreat, when the going gets too heavy. 

Just as you can't "deliver" holistic health, which must start 
with the intention of the patient, the true teacher knows you 
can't impose learning. You can, as Galileo said, help the indi- 
vidual discover it within. The open teacher helps the learner 
discover patterns and connections, fosters openness to strange 
new possibilities, and is a midwife to ideas. The teacher is a 
steersman, a catalyst, a facilitator — an agent of learning, but 
not the first cause. 

Flying and Seeing 293 

Trust deepens over time. The teacher becomes more attuned, 
and more rapid and powerful learning can take place. 

A teacher clear enough for such attunement obviously must 
have a healthy level of self-esteem, little defensiveness, few 
ego needs. The true teacher must be willing to let go, to be 
wrong, to allow the learner another reality. The learner who 
has been encouraged to hear inner authority is tacitly welcome 
to disagree. Submission to outer authority is always provisional 
and temporary. As the Eastern wisdom puts it, "If you see 
Buddha on the road, kill him." 

Like the spiritual teacher who enlarges or heals the self- 
image of the disciple, awakening him to his own potential, the 
teacher liberates the self, opens the eyes, makes the learner 
aware of choice. We only learn what we always knew. 

We learn to walk through fears that held us back. In the 
transformative relationship with a teacher, we move to the 
edge, our peace is disturbed, and we are challenged by what 
psychologist Frederick Peris called "a safe emergency." 

The optimum environment for learning offers security 
enough to encourage exploration and effort, excitement 
enough to push us onward. Although a humanistic environ- 
ment is not a sufficient condition for transformation/education, 
it engenders the necessary trust. We trust the teachers who 
give us stress, pain, or drudgery when we need it. And we 
resent those who push us for their own ego, stress us with 
double binds, or take us into the deep water when we're still 
frightened of the shallow. 

Yet appropriate stress is essential. Teachers can fail to trans- 
form if they are afraid to upset the learner. "True compassion," 
said one spiritual teacher, "is ruthless." Or, as the poet Guil- 
laume Apollinaire put it: 

Come to the edge, he said. 

They said: We are afraid. 

Come to the edge, he said. 

They came. 

He pushed them . . . and they flew. 

Those who love us may well push us when we're ready to fly. 

The too-soft teacher reinforces the learner's natural wish to 
retreat and stay safe, never venturing out for new knowledge, 
never risking. The teacher must know when to let the learner 
struggle, realizing that "help" or comfort, even when asked, 
can interrupt a transformation. This is the same good sense that 
knows the swimmer must let go, the bicyclist must achieve a 

294 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

new, internal equilibrium. Even in the name of love or sym- 
pathy, we must not be spared our learnings. 

Risk brings its own rewards: the exhilaration of breaking 
through, of getting to the other side, the relief of a conflict 
healed, the clarity when a paradox dissolves. Whoever teaches 
us this is the agent of our liberation. Eventually we know deep- 
ly that the other side of every fear is a freedom. Finally, we 
must take charge of the journey, urging ourselves past our own 
reluctance and misgivings and confusion to new freedom. 

Once that happens, however many setbacks or detours we 
may encounter, we are on a different life journey. Somewhere 
is that clear memory of the process of transformation: dark to 
light, lost to found, broken to seamless, chaos to clarity, fear to 

To understand how we learn fear and mastery, risk and 
trust, we have to look past the schools to our first teachers. 
Parents are our models of exploration. From them we learned 
to retreat or advance. We were imbued with their expectations. 
Too often, we inherited second-generation fears, anxieties we 
sensed in them. And — if we are not conscious of the cycle — we 
are all too likely to pass their fears and our own on to our 
children. That is the heritage of uneasiness, bequeathed from 
generation to generation: fears of losing, falling, being left be- 
hind, being left alone, not being good enough. 

Recent studies of the "fear of success," a fairly common syn- 
drome, revealed that its likeliest cause is the parent's com- 
munication of the fear that the child will not be able to master 
the tasks at hand. The child realizes simultaneously that (1) the 
task is considered important by the parent, and (2) the parent 
doubts that the child can do it unassisted. That individual es- 
tablishes a lifelong pattern of sabotaging his own successes 
whenever he is on the verge of real mastery. 

Most parents, it seems, don't mind if their children are better 
than they at certain things: schoolwork, athletics, popularity. 
There is vicarious satisfaction in a child's extending one's ambi- 
tions. But most parents do not want their children to be differ- 
ent. We want to be able to understand them, and we want them 
to share our values. This fear of an alien offspring appears 
in myth and in science-fiction tales of children who leap into 
new modes of being and are no longer subject to their par- 
ents' frailty or their mortal limits, as in Arthur Clarke's Child- 
hood's End. 

If as parents we are afraid of risk and strangeness, we warn 
our children against trying to beat the system. We do not ac- 

Flying and Seeing 295 

knowledge their right to a different world. In the name of ad- 
justment, we may try to spare them their sensible rebellion. In 
the name of balance, we try to save them from intensity, obses- 
sions, excesses — in short, from the disequilibrium that allows 
transformation to occur. 

A parent who shows confidence in the child's capacity to 
learn, who encourages independence, who counters fear with 
humor or honesty, can break the ancient chain of borrowed 
trouble. As increasing numbers of adults have undergone their 
own transformative process in the decade just ending, they 
have become aware of this tragic bequest, and they are a pow- 
erful force for change — a historically new factor. 


Another development is unprecedented. Once mind became 
aware of evolution, Teilhard said, humankind entered a new 
phase. It was only a matter of time until we would see evidence 
of a worldwide expansion of consciousness. 

The deliberate use of consciousness-expanding techniques in 
education, only recently well under way, is new in mass 
schooling. Never before has a culture undertaken to foster 
whole-brain knowing in the general populace. The tran- 
scendent state in which intellect and feeling are fused, in which 
higher cortical judgment makes peace with the intuitions of the 
old limbic brain, was the province of the few: the Athenian 
philosopher, the Zen master, the Renaissance genius, the crea- 
tive physicist. Such heroic stuff was not for "normal" people. 
And it was certainly not the business of the schools! 

But there is no longer reason to confine whole-brain knowing 
to an elite. Both science and personal transformative expe- 
riences of great numbers of people demonstrate that it is an 
innate human capacity, not just the gift of artists, yogis, and 
scientific prodigies. The brain of each of us is capable of endless 
reordering of information. Conflict and paradox are grist for the 
brain's transformative mill. 

We need only pay attention . By creating what psychologist Les- 
lie Fehmi called "open focus," the psychotechnologies amplify 
awareness. They boost memory, accelerate the rate of learning, 
help integrate the functions of the two cortical hemispheres, 
and promote coherence between the old and new brain re- 
gions. They also allow greater access to unconscious anxieties 
that may be standing in our way. 

296 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

They help the learner, old or young, to become centered — to 
create, connect, unify, transcend. 

And it soon becomes obvious that our underestimation of the 
brain's capacity and our ignorance of its workings led us to 
design our educational systems upside-down and backward. 
Leslie Hart, an educational consultant, described schools as 
' 'brain-antagonistic' ' : 

We are obsessed by "logic," usually meaning . . . tight, 

step-by-step, ordered, sequential (linear) effort But the 

human brain has little use for logic of this kind. It is a 
computer of incredible power and subtlety, but far more 
analog than digital. It works not by precision but prob- 
abilistically, by great numbers of often rough or even 
vague approximations. 

The brain's calculations do not require our conscious effort, 
only our attention and our openness to let the information 
through. Although the brain absorbs universes of information, 
little is admitted into "normal" consciousness, largely because 
of our habits and wrong assumptions about how we know 
what we know. 

Discoveries about the nature of the mind, unfortunately, 
have been like the slow-spreading news of armistice. Many die 
needlessly on the battlefield, long after the war is over. Young 
minds are dampened and diminished every day in numbers too 
great to bear thinking about, forced through a system that 
stunts the capacity for a lifetime of growth. In contrast to in- 
sects, as someone said, human beings start out as butterflies 
and end up in cocoons. 

Brain science was long absent from the course work in most 
colleges of education — understandably, since it tends to be 
swa tfied in technical language. The discoveries about the spe- 
cialization of the right and left hemispheres, however over- 
simplified, have offered education a provocative new metaphor 
for learning. 

The scientific validation of "intuition," our term for knowing 
that can't be tracked, has shaken science and is just now having 
its impact on education. 

On the common-sense level, we try to trace ideas from point 
to point, like hard wiring or a "train of thought." A leads to B 
leads to C. But nonlinear processes in nature, like crystalliza- 
tion and certain brain events, are A-Z, all at once. The brain is 

Flying and Seeing 297 

not limited to our common-sense conceptions, or it would not 
function at all. 

The dictionary defines intuition as "quick perception of truth 
without conscious attention or reasoning," "knowledge from 
within," "instinctive knowledge or feeling associated with clear 
and concentrated vision." The word derives, appropriately, 
from the Latin intuere, "to look upon." 

If this instant sensing is disregarded by the linear mind we 
should not be surprised. After all, its processes are beyond 
linear tracking and therefore suspect. And it is mediated by the 
half of the cortex that does not speak — our essentially mute 
hemisphere. The right brain cannot verbalize what it knows; its 
symbols, images, or metaphors need to be recognized and re- 
formulated by the left brain before the information is wholly 

Until we had laboratory evidence of the validity of such 
knowledge and some inkling of the nonlinear process, it was 
hard for our one-track selves to accept this knowing, much less 
trust it. We now know that it derives from a system whose 
storage, connection, and speed humble the most brilliant inves- 

There is a tendency to think of intuition as separate from 
intellect. More accurately, intuition might be said to encompass 
intellect. Everything we have ever "figured out" is also stored 
and available. The larger realm knows everything we know in 
our normal consciousness — and a great deal more. As psychol- 
ogist Eugene Gendlin put it, the dimension we used to call the 
unconscious is not childish, regressive, or dreamy but very 
much smarter than "we" are. If its messages are sometimes 
garbled, that is the fault of the receiver, not the sender. 

"Tacit knowing" has always had its defenders, including 
many of our greatest and most creative scientists and artists. It 
has been the essential, silent partner to all our progress. The 
left brain can organize new information into the existing 
scheme of things, but it cannot generate new ideas. The right brain 
sees context — and, therefore, meaning. Without intuition, we 
would still be in the cave. Every breakthrough, every leap for- 
ward in history, has depended on right-brain insights, the abil- 
ity of the holistic brain to detect anomalies, process novelty, 
perceive relationships. 

Is it any wonder that our educational approach, with its em- 
phasis on linear, left-brain processes, has failed to keep pace 
with the times? 

298 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

In a way, it makes sense that evolving human consciousness 
eventually came to over-rely on that hemisphere in which lan- 
guage primarily resides. Some theorists think, based on the 
research data, that the left brain behaves almost like a separate, 
competitive individual, an independent mind that inhibits its 

Our plight might be compared to the long, long journey of 
twin sailors. One is a verbal, analytical fellow, the other mute 
and sometimes dreamy. The verbal partner earnestly calculates 
with the aid of his charts and instruments. His brother, how- 
ever, has an uncanny ability to predict storms, changing cur- 
rents, and other navigational conditions, which he communi- 
cates by signs, symbols, drawings. The analytical sailor is afraid 
to trust his brother's advice because he can't imagine its source. 
Actually, the silent sailor has wireless, instantaneous access to 
a rich data bank that gives him a satellite perspective on the 
weather. But he cannot explain this complex system with his 
limited ability to communicate details. And his talkative, "ra- 
tional'' brother usually ignores him anyway. Frustrated, he 
often stands by helplessly while their craft sails head-on into 

Whenever their convictions are in conflict, the analytical 
sailor stubbornly follows his own calculations, until the day he 
stumbles onto the schematics for his brother's data bank. He is 
overwhelmed. He realizes that by ignoring his twin's input, he 
has been traveling through life half-informed. 

Jerome Bruner, one of the leading scientists interested in the 
realm of learning, remarked that the young child approaching a 
new subject or an unfamiliar problem — like the scientist operat- 
ing at the edge of his chosen field — would be paralyzed with- 
out intuition. We do not "figure out" how to balance, for 
example. More often than we realize, we feel our way. The A-Z 
computer fine-tunes its guesses, and we move. 

If we are to use our capacities fully and confidently, Bruner 
said, we must recognize the power of intuition. Our very tech- 
nology has generated so many options that only intuition can 
help us choose. And because our technology can handle the 
routine, the analytical, we are free to refine the attention that 
gives us access to holistic knowing. 

Now we realize that the right brain sees relationships, recog- 
nizes faces, mediates new information, hears tone, judges 
harmonies and symmetries. The greatest learning disability of all 
may be pattern blindness — the inability to see relationships or 

Flying and Seeing 299 

detect meaning. Yet no school district has remedial programs to 
overcome this most basic of handicaps. As we have seen, our 
educational system aggravates and may even cause it. 

Research confirms what observant parents and teachers have 
always known: We learn in different ways. Of our assorted 
brains, some are left-dominant, some are right-dominant, 
some are neither. Some of us learn better by hearing, others by 
seeing or touching. Some visualize easily, others not at all. 
Some recall odometer readings, telephone numbers, dates; 
others remember colors and feelings. Some learn best in 
groups, others in isolation. Some peak in the mornings, others 
in the afternoon. 

No single educational method can draw the best from diverse 
brains. Findings about the specialties of the two hemispheres 
and the tendency of individuals to favor one style or the other 
also helps us understand why we differ so much in how we see 
and think. 

Brain research is also revolutionizing our understanding of 
differences in the ways males and females perceive. The sexes 
vary markedly in some aspects of brain specialization. The left 
and right hemispheres of the male brain specialize at a much 
earlier age than those of the female brain, which gives them 
certain advantages and disadvantages. Male brains are superior 
at certain types of spatial perceptions, but they are less flexible, 
more vulnerable than female brains to deficits after injury. One 
recent study found almost no language loss in women who had 
suffered injury to the left brain and subnormal language in 
males with the same type of trauma. Vastly more males than 
females suffer from dyslexia (reading difficulty). 

Dyslexia, which afflicts at least 10 percent of the population, 
seems to be associated with a dominance by the right cerebral 
hemisphere in the reading process. Those with a strong holistic 
perception are often handicapped by our educational system 
with its emphasis on symbolic language and symbolic 
mathematics. They have initial difficulty in processing these 
symbols. Yet this neurological minority may also be unusually 
gifted. They typically excel in the arts and in innovative think- 
ing. Ironically, their potential contribution to society is fre- 
quently diminished because the system undermines their self- 
esteem in their first school years. 

Schools have taught and “graded" a kaleidoscope of indi- 
vidual brains by a single program, a single set of criteria. They 
have overrewarded and conditioned some skills to the exclu- 

300 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

sion of others, “failing" those whose gifts are not on the cul- 
ture's most-wanted list, thus convincing them for life that they 
are unworthy. 

Individually, and as a society, we have urgent needs that can 
only be met if we think differently about learning. 


Synthesis and pattern-seeing are survival skills for the twenty- 
first century. As culture grows more complex, 3 science more 
all-encompassing, choices more diverse, we need whole-brain 
understanding as we never needed it before: the right brain to 
innovate, sense, dream up, and envision; the left to test, 
analyze, check out, build constructs and supports for the new 
order. Together they invent the future. 

Novelist Henry James anticipated brain science when he ob- 
served that there are two major kinds of people: those who 
prefer the emotion of recognition and those who prefer surprise. 
The left hemisphere seems to specialize in processing highly 
structured stimuli, like a click, whereas the right integrates 
novel, diffuse information, like a light flash. The left essentially 
recognizes the relationship of the stimulus to what it already 
knows. The right handles material for which there has been no 
previous experience. 

The hemispheres are conservative and radical, traditional 
and innovative. Experiments suggest that in addition to under- 
standing relationships and excelling at depth perception, the 
right also perceives better through gloom and dimness. This 
seems poetically appropriate in view of its peering into the 
unknown, its penchant for the mystical. 

Free-floating right-brain knowledge is like a borrowed book, 
a snatch of melody heard in passing, a vague memory. If the 
felt idea — the stranger — is not given a name, a definition, an 
outline, it is lost to full consciousness. It goes to wisps and 
tatters like a half-remembered dream. It is not realized. With- 
out the left brain's ability to recognize, name, and integrate, all 
the imagination that could rejuvenate our lives remains in 

The psychotechnologies ease the emergence of the stranger. 

Sociologists calculated recently that an individual in Western society receives 
sixty-five thousand more pieces of stimuli each day than did our forebears one 
hundred years ago. 

Flying and Seeing 301 

In a state of diffuse attention, complex feelings and impressions 
come forth to be recognized by the analytic left brain. The real 
mystery is in this sudden integration, when the inchoate clicks 
into place. Then the whole brain knows. It's like the light bulb 
that appears over the head of a cartoon character who has a 
"bright idea." 

We are living in a time of rapid readjustment in everyday life 
and radical revisioning of science. Multiple levels of reality, 
new notions about the physical world, expanded states of 
awareness, staggering technological advances — these are nei- 
ther science fiction nor a curious dream. They will not go away. 

Most schools have been especially inhospitable to creative 
and innovative individuals in the past. Innovators jolt, they 
disturb the drowsy status quo. They dissent from the comfort 
of consensus reality, assorted Hans Christian Andersons mar- 
veling at the emperor's gleaming nakedness. 

Hermann Hesse wrote of "the struggle between rule and 
spirit" that repeats itself year after year, from school to school: 

The authorities go to infinite pains to nip the few profound 
or more valuable intellects in the bud. And time and time 
again the ones who are detested by their teachers and fre- 
quently punished, the runaways and those expelled, are 
the ones who afterwards add to society's treasure. But 
some — and who knows how many? — waste away with 
quiet obstinacy and finally go under. 

Inadvertently, we may push people to the extremes of their 
innate tendencies by the bias of our schools. The rebel- 
innovator diverges more and more, perhaps to become antiso- 
cial or neurotic. The timid child who wishes to please is shaped 
into an even more conformist position by the authoritarian 
structure. In their study comparing high schools to prisons, 
Craig Haney and Philip Zimbardo commented that the real 
tragedies are not the troublemakers or even the dropouts, but 
"the endless procession of faceless students who go through 
the school system quietly and unquestioningly, unobtrusively 
and unnoticed." 

Fear can keep us from innovating, risking, creating. Yet we 
settle for only the illusion of safety. We prolong our discomfort, 
and we are troubled in our sleep. On one level we know that 
we are in danger, avoiding change in a changing world. The 
only strategies imaginative enough to rescue us will come from 
listening to our "other" consciousness. We must open and re- 

302 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

open the issues, we must break and reform the structures again 
and again. 

Alvin Toffler suggested in Future Shock (1970) that we need 
"a multiplicity of visions, dreams, and prophecies — images of 

potential tomorrows " Conjecture and visions become as 

coldly practical as “realism" — both feet on the floor — was 
in an earlier time. “We must create sanctuaries for social 

Tomorrow is likely to bring thrilling, scary, even cataclysmic 
surprises. An educational system that pushes “right answers" 
is scientifically and psychologically unsound. And by demand- 
ing conformity, in either belief or behavior, it inhibits innova- 
tion and asks for scorn in an increasingly autonomous age. 

“The present educational paradigm assumes that the only 
questions worth asking are those for which we already have the 
answers," said Ray Gottlieb, an optometrist specializing in 
learning. “Where, then, can one learn to live with the uncer- 
tainties of the real world?" 

We are beginning to realize that we must educate for the 
uncertainty of freedom beyond frontiers. The ability to shift 
perspectives is a distinct aid to problem solving. In one experi- 
ment, psychologists trained students to reframe problems or to 
visualize them more vividly. Students who learned to reformu- 
late had to enlarge their definition of the problem and check 
their assumptions to see if they were all true and necessary. 
The reframers dramatically outscored the visualizers! The 
experimenters remarked that perhaps you can be clear about 
the wrong thing, achieving “crystal clearness where there is 
none." 4 

Imaginative leaps, curiosity, synthesis, spontaneity, the flash 
of insight — these should not be the franchise of a favored 
minority. Educator John Gowan, whose special concern is cre- 
ativity, said: 

Heretofore we have harvested creativity wild. We have 
used as creative only those persons who stubbornly re- 
mained so despite all efforts of the family, religion, educa- 
tion, and politics to grind it out of them 

If we learn to domesticate creativity — that is, to enhance 
it rather than deny it in our culture — we can increase the 

4 For example, subjects were asked to design a clock that has no moving parts 
on its face or any feature that changes visibly during normal use. The answer: 
an auditory clock. Trying too hard to see a clock trapped most people into 
assuming that the clock must give visual readout. 

Flying and Seeing 303 

number of creative persons [to the point of] critical mass. 
When this level is reached in a culture, as it was in Peri- 
clean Athens, the Renaissance, Elizabethan England, 
and our own Federalist period, civilization makes a great 
leap forward. We can have a golden age of this type such 
as the world has never seen. ... A genius is always a 
forerunner; and the best minds of this age foresee the 
dawn of that one. 

Having no alternative, we were born creative. Our first sights 
and sounds were fresh, new, and original. We explored our 
small universes, named things, and knew them intimately in 
the I-Thou sense. Then, abruptly, formal education interrupted 
this contemplation, forcing us into another, more anxious kind 
of attention, shattering the state of consciousness necessary for 
good art and good science. 

For the first time, if we're very lucky, education may under- 
take to foster that richer, more fluent consciousness. Our 
schools may gradually stop trying to row sailboats. 


Meaning emerges from context and connectedness. Without 
context, nothing makes sense. Try to imagine checkers without 
a checkerboard, language without a grammar, games without 
rules. The right brain, with its gift for seeing patterns and 
wholes, is essential for understanding context, for detecting 
meaning. “Learning to learn" includes learning to see the rela- 
tionships between things. “Unfortunately our schools are no 
help," anthropologist Edward Hall said, “because they consis- 
tently teach us not to make connections There should be a 

few people at least whose task is synthesis — pulling things 
together. And that is impossible without a deep sense of 

Context . . .literally, "that which is braided together." We are 
looking now at the ecology of everything, realizing that things 
only make sense in relation to other things. Just as medicine 
began to look at the context of disease, the milieu and not just 
symptoms, education is beginning to acknowledge that the in- 
terrelationship of what we know, the web of relevance, is more 
important than mere content. Content is relatively easy to mas- 
ter, once it has been given a framework. 

Preschoolers, in one experiment, for example, learned to read 

304 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

words more readily than individual letters, apparently because 
they associated meaning with the words. The word heavy, 
which includes the letter e, was easier to learn than the letter e 
alone. However, if the letter was given a meaning rather than 
just a name or sound — if the children were told that e meant 
"taxi" — it could be learned as easily as a word. The researchers 
remarked on what a powerful factor meaning is and what a 
relatively minor influence visual complexity has if meaning is 
part of the equation. 

Under the Title I program designed to help culturally de- 
prived children, educational consultants from Synectics, a 
Cambridge, Massachusetts firm, have taught thousands of 
elementary-school children how to make connections — in ef- 
fect, how to think metaphorically. 5 Initially, most of the chil- 
dren cannot make meaningful connections if the teacher asks, 
"How is the growth of a seed like the growth of an egg?" 
Typical responses of third-graders before training: "The flower 
is best." "The chick can walk." "The chicken is smaller." 
"There are no feathers on the flower." 

After several hours of group exercises in connection-making, 
the children are asked again about the seed and the egg. All can 
now generalize some aspect of the similarities: growth, chang- 
ing form, and so on. Their metaphors are often striking. In a 
program in Lawrence, Massachusetts, one child said, "Only 
the egg and the seed know what they'll be when they grow 
up Something inside must tell them. It's like 'Mister Ro- 

gers' on TV. He tells a story, and only he knows how it'll come 
out." One said that both a seed and an egg start small and get 
surprisingly big, like father's anger. "When he's mad, it starts 
out a little mad — and gets madder and madder." One com- 
pared the cracking of the seed and egg to the cracking of water 
pipes by expanding ice. 

When the children in the Lawrence schools were tested one 
year after their training in metaphorical thinking, first graders 
showed a 363 percent increase in knowledge of letters and 
sounds, a 286 percent increase in aural comprehension, a 1038 
percent increase in word reading. Kindergartners showed year- 
to-year increases of 76 percent on a picture-vocabulary test. 
Third graders showed an increase of nearly 40 percent in read- 
ing scores. 

William J. J. Gordon, the originator of the Synectics ap- 

5 Synectics exercises are also used for adults, especially in training for cre- 

Flying and Seeing 305 

proach, believes that learning is based on making connections 
that relate the new to the familiar, an ability that has been 
discouraged in many people. 

Among the questions in Synectics exercises: "What needs 
more protection, a turtle or a rock?" "Which weighs more, a 
boulder or a heavy heart?" "Which grows more, a tree or self- 
confidence?" Metaphor builds a bridge between the hemi- 
spheres, symbolically carrying knowledge from the mute right 
brain so that it may be recognized by the left as being like 
something already known. Synectics also asks for examples of 
repulsive attraction, delicate armor, frozen haste, disciplined 
freedom — exercises in transcending paradox. 

In the midst of a wealth of information, we may be moving 
toward an economy of learning — a few powerful principles and 
theories making sense across many disciplines. 

The elements of the world cannot be understood except in 
terms of the whole, as our best thinkers keep trying to tell us. 
"Nature is one wonderful unit," Albert Szent-Gyorgyi said. 
"It is not divided into physics, chemistry, quantum mechan- 
ics " Kenneth Boulding, economist and president of the 

American Association for the Advancement of Science, spoke 
of the "profound reorganization and restructuring of knowl- 
edge" taking place in our time: "The old boundaries are 
crumbling in all directions." Note that he said restructuring, not 
adding onto. It is the shape and form of what we know that is 

People must learn to accommodate "the whole brain in a 
whole world," said Joseph Meeker, speaking of what he called 
"ambidextrous education": 

Left-brained linear thinkers are in for some hard times. 
Those who persist in believing that they live in a garden 
will find their carrots veering off to join or intersect the 
lettuce, while weeds and animals from the forest insinuate 
themselves through the slackening fence wire. No one 
thing can any longer be treated in isolation . . . Life in such 
a wilderness will require all the brain there is, not just that 
part that thrives on analytical divisions. 

In its 1977 report, the Carnegie Foundation for the Ad- 
vancement of Teaching said, "We have been through a period 
when knowledge was fragmented, but dreams of coherence 

survived Field by field, individuals have sought to recreate 

an intellectual whole after a long period of fission. We seem to 

306 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

be entering a period of new attempts at synthesis." From fis- 
sion to fusion ... As the report noted, this coming-together of 
knowledge is more evident at the graduate level of education 
because "the expanding edges of fields, where new research 
takes place, are closer to each other than are the central cores of 

It's hard to visualize the far edges of our various fields of 
knowledge coming together. We might more easily think in 
terms of depth: the penetration of human inquiry, from what- 
ever direction, seems to be taking us to certain central truths or 

Indeed, at the level of graduate education, synthesis is evi- 
dent. The National Endowment for the Humanities is sponsor- 
ing a five-year teaching and research effort in conjunction with 
San Francisco State University, the Science-Humanities Con- 
vergence Program. The newly formed National Humanities 
Center near Duke University, funded by private foundations 
and corporations, aims to encourage interdisciplinary research 
by providing support for scholars. Law schools, medical 
schools, and other centers of professional training are enriching 
and broadening their curricula. 


Not only are we learning to connect information, but we are 
connecting with each other as well. We are increasingly aware 
that no one culture and no period in history has had all the 
answers. We are gathering our collective wisdom, from the 
past and from the whole planet. 

"We have been the benefactors of our cultural heritage," said 
psychologist Stanley Krippner, "and the victims of our cultural 
narrowness." Our concepts of the possible are mired in the 
heavy materialism, the obsolete mind-body dualism, of our 
cultural perspective. 

Just as medical innovators have drawn upon insights about 
health from other cultures — curanderismo, shamanism, 
acupuncture — we are now discovering and adapting traditional 
teaching systems, tools, and perspectives. 

One such tool is the Indian Medicine Wheel, or the 
Cheyenne Wheel of Knowledge. In contrast to the way we 
compartmentalize information, the Cheyennes and other 
American Indian tribes attempt to show the circular, connected 
nature of reality by mapping knowledge on a wheel. For in- 

Flying and Seeing 307 

stance, the wheel may be divided into four seasons, the "four 
corners of the earth," or the seasons of one's life. Or, it may 
demonstrate patterns and relationships between social groups 
or crops, like a round flow chart. Educators at the Harvard 
School of Education have adapted the wheel to illustrate rela- 
tionships between disciplines. 

And just as the advocates of. holistic medicine have resur- 
rected relevant statements from Plato and other Greek 
philosophers, so educators are belatedly examining a holistic 
Greek concept, the paidea. The paidea referred to the educa- 
tional matrix created by the whole of Athenian culture, in 
which the community and all its disciplines generated learning 
resources for the individual, whose ultimate goal was to reach 
the divine center in the self. 

Euphenics, a recent idea in genetics, suggests that there is a 
scientific basis for such learning approaches as paidea. 
Whereas eugenics promoted the breeding of certain traits and 
selecting against other traits, euphenics takes the view that the 
environment can be optimized to bring out potential traits. In 
human terms, we might say that everyone is gifted, in the 
sense of having special potentials in the genetic repertoire, but 
that most of these gifts are not elicited by the environment. If 
the learning environment is stimulating and tolerant, a great 
array of skills, talents, and capacities can be developed. 

Another native system offers a new way to introduce rele- 
vance. Students have often complained that there is little point 
to the information offered by schools. A number of American 
educators have adapted the idea of the "walkabout," a pro- 
longed and dangerous journey into the wilderness required for 
male Australian aborigines at about age fourteen. Knowing that 
they are preparing for a life-or-death initiation gives immediacy 
to the aborigines' tribal education. In some schools, urban 
youngsters are now creating their own programs of study in 
preparation for a great task they choose, their version of the 

There is growing excitement among educators about old 
myths and symbols, oral history, earth festivals, primitive rites 
of passage and customs, extraordinary abilities documented in 
cultures less linear than our own. 

As our view changes, the world changes: It becomes smaller, 
richer, more human, like McLuhan's Global Village, the jewel- 
like planet of the Whole Earth Catalog, Buckminster Fuller's 
Spaceship Earth . What is it to see subtle patterns in a terrain of 
snow or sand, to navigate from island to island, to dance on 

308 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

coals, to try to exorcise sickness? What can human beings do? 
What are all the things we collectively know? “None of us," 
says a poster in an alternative school, "is as smart as all of us." 

We discover that we, too, can create myths, an age-old 
strategy for cultures engaged in transformation. 

In the accounts of life-changing, shaking experiences in- 
cluded in the Aquarian Conspiracy questionnaires, several in- 
dividuals mentioned cultural shock — moving to another coun- 
try, another part of the world. 

There are powerful lessons for us in other cultures. Primitive 
initiations, for instance, teach the initiate about pain, identity, 
confrontation. An Eskimo child who feels tense is encouraged 
to stare at a bird or a fish, temporarily withdrawing from a 
disturbing situation as a bird might take flight or a fish might 
swim rapidly away. The child is also taught to return to the 
problem after this respite, just as the bird and the fish return. 

The Plains Indians of North America teach their children 
about "the twinness" in man, the existence of conflicting selves 
that can be made whole. An old chief quoted by Hyemeyohsts 
Storm in Seven Arrows compared this twinness to the forked 
branches of a tree. "If One Half tries to split itself from the 
Other Half, the Tree will become crippled or die — Rather 
than taking this barren way, we must tie together the 
paradoxes of our Twin Nature with the things of the One Uni- 

Our culture has needed its Cheyenne Wheel of Knowledge — 
a cosmology into which it can order information and experi- 
ence: our place on the planet; our sequence in the pageant of 
evolution and history; our relationship to the infinitely small 
electron and the immense galaxies; our environments for birth, 
death, work, families. All of these are contexts. We cannot 
understand ourselves, each other, or nature without seeing 
whole systems: the tissue of events, the web of circumstances, 
multiple perspectives. 


"What we thought was the horizon of our potentials turns out 
to be only the foreground," Tom Roberts, an Illinois educator, 
told a group of teachers interested in transpersonal education. 
A proposed project in the federal mills, "The Limits of Human 
Educability," recommended that researchers identify some of 
the outer limits: "The very task of identifying those limits serves 

Flying and Seeing 309 

to focus energy on going toward or beyond them. Focusing on 
the outer reaches of human educability creates a different per- 
spective " 

The transpersonal view encourages the learner to identify 
with those who transcended "normal" limits. What we think of 
as intellectual giftedness is potential in every normal brain, as 
research has shown, yet most of us fall tragically short of our 

Experiments have also demonstrated the power of the self- 
image: the high or low expectations held by one's parents, 
one's teachers, oneself. A recent study of men from the same 
low socio-economic class revealed that those who were up- 
wardly mobile had one critical ingredient the others lacked: 
parents who had expected them to succeed. 

Teachers have been trained to expect little. In a famous ex- 
periment in the 1960s, Robert Rosenthal of Harvard and Lenore 
Jacobson, a San Francisco educator, demonstrated what they 
called the Pygmalion effect — the finding that teachers uninten- 
tionally communicate their expectations of what a student can 
do, thus setting in motion a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those 
youngsters expected to do well usually thrive, even if the teach- 
er's expectations are based on bogus information . On the other hand, 
one study showed that teachers give little negative feedback to 
students of whom they expect little, making it difficult for the 
students to correct what they're doing wrong. Not only has the 
Pygmalion effect been replicated in hundreds of experiments; it 
turns out that teachers also have measurable biases based on 
the sex, race, and physical attractiveness of their students. 

When Abraham Maslow asked a college class whether any- 
one there had expectations of achieving greatness, no one re- 
sponded. "Who else, then?" he asked drily. A master teacher 
in Great Britain tells all the students she trains, "Do you realize 
when you stand before that class that you have there the Ein- 
steins, the Picassos, the Beethovens of the future?" 

We must stop fragmenting our image of high achievement, 
making separate labels for intelligence, creativity, giftedness, 
leadership, morality. As educator Barbara Clark put it in Grow- 
ing Up Gifted: 

When we have integrated our focus, changed and ex- 
tended our view of reality, and established the underlying 
connectedness of each to all, we will then have a new 
meaning of giftedness. The gifted, the talented, the "in- 
tuned," and the illuminated will then be merged 

310 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

There is an impetus in education to develop “values clarifica- 
tion," a curriculum for moral development. Lawrence Kohlberg 
and others have reported that children become sensitive to 
moral issues if they are led to think about them. Actually, the 
teacher's character can inspire cooperation, altruism, and ser- 
vice in students — or hypocrisy, put-downs, and competitive- 
ness. As someone has pointed out, all teachers teach values, 
consciously or unconsciously. 

The possibilities are staggering — haunting, if we consider the 
human waste, the lost potential. But the very fact that we are 
now discovering this potential and communicating our concern 
offers hope. We live in the age of the Guinness Book of World 
Records. We can look to Olympic athletes who break their own 
barriers, folk heroes who pull people from burning cars, televi- 
sion human-interest stories like that about a crippled ghetto 
father who propelled his wheelchair eight miles to a hospital to 
get help for the fevered baby in his lap. 

This is living moral education, teaching for transcendence. 
Because of travel and communications, the interaction that 
once produced “schools" of artists and clusters of great physi- 
cists and writers can now be accomplished in surprising mea- 
sure on a global scale. 


Reform after reform, some no doubt promising, failed because 
too many teachers disliked the key concepts or misunderstood 
them. As Charlie Brown in Peanuts remarked, “How can you 
do new math with an old-math mind?" 

You can no more reform education by decree than you can 
heal by what Edward Carpenter called “external ministra- 
tions." Teachers have to understand new ideas from the inside 
out if they are to benefit from them. As one educator said, 
“Teachers who do a bad job with old tools are likely to do a 
worse job with strange new tools." 

Some teachers are what Bruner called “dream killers," what 
Aldous Huxley called "bad artists" whose shortcomings can 
affect whole lives and destinies. Just as medical colleges have 
tended to select for the academically sharp, good memorizers 
rather than those best suited to care for people, so the colleges 
of education have constructed an obstacle course of jargon and 
course work dull enough to discourage all but the most stub- 
born of the creative candidates. 

Flying and Seeing 311 

If the bright, imaginative individual survives the training 
marathon, the system itself is chilly to change. The creative 
teacher who hires into an experimental program frequently ex- 
periences burn-out — exhaustion and depression from the pro- 
longed struggle to keep innovation alive amidst paperwork, 
constraints, attack. 

We have put the lowest premium on talent and sensitivity in 
the profession most critical to the society's mental health. 

Long after the original Pygmalion experiments, Rosenthal 
and his associates at Harvard developed a 200-item audiovisual 
test, "Profile of Non-verbal Sensitivity" (PONS), to measure 
the ability of an individual to perceive the emotions and inten- 
tions of others without the aid of verbal cues. 

As a group, teachers were relatively low scorers. Students, 
on the other hand, were quite perceptive. Those who believe 
that others can be manipulated — who score high on the 
"Machiavellian scale" — are relatively insensitive to nonverbal 

The testmakers categorized the high scorers as Listeners, the 
low scorers as Speakers. On the whole, teachers are accus- 
tomed to telling, not hearing. Or, as one book title put it, The 
Geranium on the Window Sill Just Died, but Teacher You Went Right 
On. Meanwhile, students, in their sensitivity to all that is un- 
said — the teacher's looks, postures of disapproval or rejection 
— learn what they must to survive the system. 

Until recently, education has had it backward, caring little 
about the teacher, who is a kind of context for learning, and 
enormously about the content. Yet a gifted teacher can infect 
generations with excitement about ideas, can launch careers — 
even revolutions. Carl Cori, for example, a Nobel laureate pro- 
fessor and researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, 
supervised the work of six scientists who later won Nobel 

The lifelong impact of a single first-grade teacher was re- 
ported in Harvard Educational Review. Two- thirds of the former 
pupils of "Miss A," all educated in a poor neighborhood in 
Montreal, had achieved the highest level of adult status, and 
the remainder was classified as "medium." None was in the 
"low" group. 6 

6 As established on a comparative basis in the group studied, not in the society 
as a whole. Remember, these individuals lived in a low socioeconomic 
neighborhood, and "highest group" includes college instructor, successful 
businessman, etc. 

312 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

Miss A was convinced that all children would read by the 
end of first grade, regardless of background. She impressed 
upon her students the importance of education, gave extra 
hours to the slow learners, stayed after school to help them, 
shared her lunch with students who had forgotten theirs, and 
remembered them by name twenty years later. She adjusted to 
new math and innovative techniques for teaching reading, but 
her real secret, former students and colleagues said, was that 
she “taught with a lot of love." 

Educator Esther Rothman, author of Troubled Teachers, attrib- 
utes poor teaching not only to ineptitude but also to uncon- 
scious conflicts, needs, and motives in the teacher. Violence, 
sarcasm, power games, permissiveness, low expectations lead- 
ing to low achievement, especially in minority children — all 
these contribute mightily to the failures of education, she said. 
Budgets, school environments, and techniques are of secon- 
dary importance. 

As teachers allow their deepest feelings and motivations to 
emerge, as they go inward to seek self-awareness and to free 
themselves emotionally, they are beginning to move outward 
to change the social structure. Then the teacher-idealist, the 
"undercover reformer," makes a mark, Rothman said. 

Many teachers are already crusading rebels in the best 
sense of the word; some are in the process of becom- 
ing. . . . Only then, when aggression, love, and power are 
used constructively in the classroom, can education really 
succeed. . . . Education, like the neurons of the brain, 
would then be an expressively aggressive process, dy- 
namic and explosive. 

Voices in education have proclaimed this need. "Education can 
transform culture, but only insofar as educators are trans- 
formed," said Diane Watson, a member of the Los Angeles 
school board. 

Recently, within education's policymaking circles, the 
"facilitative behaviors" movement has focused attention on 
teachers as human beings who can kill or nurture learning. 
"Most school districts have concluded within the past five 
years that they can't improve education if they don't change 
teachers," one consultant said. 

This movement sounds simple: It aims to awaken teachers to 
their classroom behavior and their attitude toward themselves 
and others. By rating teachers in the classroom or by having 

Flying and Seeing 313 

them rate themselves on videotape, the facilitative-behaviors 
approach calls attention to positive and negative acts. 

Research has shown that children learn best from adults who 
are spontaneous, creative, supportive, physically fit . . . who 
look for meaning rather than just facts . . . who have high self- 
esteem . . . who see their job as liberating rather than control- 
ling the slow learner. Good teachers are more interested in the 
process of learning than in achieving specific goals. They admit 
their own mistakes, entertain radical ideas by students, discuss 
feelings, foster cooperation, encourage students to help plan 
their work, provide resources beyond the call of duty. Humilia- 
tion, lining up, punishment, and rulemaking inhibit learning. 

Project Change in Los Angeles is just one example of the 
training programs around the country designed to increase 
teachers' sensitivity. “Without exception," one trainer said, 
“the teachers tell us that the greatest benefits were in their 
personal lives, total changes in perspective. They say they're 
now aware of talents they didn't realize they had, and many 
experience a real explosion of creativity in the classroom. 
They're more open to others — less critical, more apt to see what 
others have to offer. There's a correspondence between this 
growth and the teacher's productivity. They write more les- 
sons, there are self-reports of more energy, and the students 
rate them higher." 

Educators engaged in transpersonal and humanistic methods 
have begun linking in national networks and centers; there are 
also local networks, like Lifeline in Los Angeles, sponsored by 
the Association for Humanistic Psychology, whose intention is 
the establishment of a new paradigm in education "co-existing 
with other, more traditional paradigms." 

Beverly Galyean, consultant on "confluent education" for 
the Los Angeles city schools, expressed the network's con- 
spiratorial, Radical Center intentions at a 1978 meeting: 

We meet as professional humanistic educators, expert in 
traditional methodology, wise enough to know what 
works and is to be retained, yet humble enough to seek 
new solutions. 

Around Los Angeles hundreds of people are practicing 
this kind of education, but fear permeates the environment 
because of a call for “fundamentals," discipline, con- 
trol The individual humanistic teacher, counselor, ad- 

ministrator, parent, or student is left wondering how to 
merge a philosophy of love, openness, trust, belief in pro- 

314 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

cess and learning from within, creative expression, per- 
sonal responsibility, and group consensus with a tradition 
that seems its opposite. 

Our answer: Take the need where it is. Provide creative 
alternatives to those programs that no longer work. If your 
district wants "back to basics," improved reading scores, 
and better attendance, show them how your humanistic 
program, or the program of your colleagues, accomplishes 
these goals. You can use traditional subject matter to pro- 
vide students with processes for self- reflection. . . . 

Or, if your district wants discipline, tell them about pro- 
grams that operate on the principle of internal control. . . . 
Perhaps hyperactivity is a problem at your school. Use 
natural methods for calming over-active energies: yoga, 
meditation, massage, movement, nutrition. 

No one can learn when the environment is distracting, 
fragmented. Learn how to lead focusing activities, group 
meditations, and relaxing techniques 

The crises now facing most school districts can be the 
springboard for your own humanistic experiments. When 
people hurt they ask for help. Education is hurting and is 
asking for help. Let's not be shy in responding. 

Even a tiny minority of committed teachers, counselors, and 
administrators can set off seismic shocks with programs that 


Because the emergent educational paradigm encompasses a 
great deal more than the old, experimental programs often fall 
short of their own ambitions. These are, after all, innovations 
and experiments, by definition not yet refined or streamlined. 
It is no small undertaking to humanize schools and challenge 
students at the same time. 

The new school community is very close, more a family than 
a school, complete with occasional family fights. Teachers, par- 
ents, and students jointly decide important issues of policy and 
curriculum and hire new staff members. Students address 
teachers by first name and view them more as friends than 
authoritarian figures. 

Age groupings are usually flexible, not the lockstep structure 
of traditional education. Most innovative educational programs 
eventually learn to include enough structure to remind stu- 

Flying and Seeing 315 

dents of their responsibility and to prepare them for some old- 
paradigm expectations when they leave school. Letter grades 
are available for those who need a record for college entry. 

The new curriculum is a rich and subtle tapestry, constrained 
only by school bureaucracy and budget and the limits of the 
teacher's energy. Virtually no subject is too difficult, controver- 
sial, or offbeat to think about. 

In most states, of course, some components of the cur- 
riculum are prescribed by law. Even so, educators integrate 
many academic subjects with "right-brain" activities (music, 
gymnastics, the arts, sensory stimulation) or present it dramat- 
ically, as in the reenactment of historic trials so that students 
will think freshly and with interest about the issues. Students 
experience other historic periods and other cultures by staging 
fairs and festivals, by learning the crafts and music of other 
times and places. 

They use their mathematics to build domes. They use the 
community for their campus. Parents and "experts" from the 
community are volunteer teachers for special subjects, and the 
students also tutor each other. Typically the curriculum in- 
cludes a sophisticated dose of the arts and humanities; students 
may learn calligraphy and batik dying, stage a Broadway play, 
write and perform their own television scripts. They learn the 
uses and sources of political power by attending school board 
and dty council meetings. They learn biology by caring for 
animals, botany while planting gardens. 

They learn about conditioning. They learn to recognize their 
own patterns of behavior, how to identify fear and conflict, 
how to act responsibly, how to communicate what they need 
and what they feel. 

Altered states of consciousness are taken seriously: "center- 
ing" exercises, meditation, relaxation, and fantasy are used to 
keep the intuitive pathways open and the whole brain learning. 
Students are encouraged to "tune in," imagine, identify the 
special feeling of peak experiences. There are techniques to 
encourage body awareness: breathing, relaxation, yoga, 
movement, biofeedback. 

Students are encouraged to think about semantics — how 
labels affect our thinking. They study topics that would be 
considered too controversial for most classrooms — birth and 
death, for instance. Foreign language may be taught by tech- 
niques like the Silent Way, a method in which the teacher says 
little and the student is challenged to use the language right 
away; or Suggestology, the accelerated-learning method that 
originated in Bulgaria, which employs music and rhythmic 

326 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

breathing to engage the right hemisphere. There are courses in 
ecology, in discriminating between junk food and good nutri- 
tion, in being an intelligent consumer. 

Students are pushed to think about paradoxes, conflicting 
philosophies, the implications of their own beliefs and actions. 
They are reminded that there are always alternatives. They 
innovate, invent, question, ponder, argue, dream, agonize, 
plan, fail, succeed, rethink, imagine. They learn to learn, and 
they understand that education is a lifelong journey. 

Students of all ages play games: educational games, math 
games, board games of fantasy, history, space exploration, so- 
cial issues. Rather than fiercely competitive physical games, 
they may play "New Games," an ever-expanding collection of 
activities, some of them ancient sport, that fit the slogan of the 
New Games Foundation: "Play hard, play fair, nobody hurt." 

Competition, status, and popularity contests play a relatively 
small part in the dynamics of such schools. Most students at- 
tend voluntarily because they and their families favor this edu- 
cational approach. Such families tend to de-emphasize social 
striving and competition and to emphasize excellence for its 
own sake. The curriculum and teacher behavior also reinforce 
autonomy, empathy, and mutual support in students. Squab- 
bling is more in the vein of transient sibling disputes rather 
than the deep patterns of "in" and "out" groups typical of 
conventional schools. 

A major ambition of the curriculum is autonomy. This is 
based on the belief that if our children are to be free, they must 
be free even from us — from our limiting beliefs and our ac- 
quired tastes and habits. At times this means teaching for 
healthy, appropriate rebellion, not conformity. Maturity brings 
with it a morality that derives from the innermost self, not from 
mere obedience to the culture's mores. 

As modem history has tragically shown, obedience based on 
fear is not morally selective. Psychologist Stanley Milgram, in a 
series of now classic experiments, ordered experimental sub- 
jects to administer what they believed to be painful shocks to 
another person. (Actually, the victim, a confederate of the ex- 
perimenter, only pretended to be in pain.) Most subjects, al- 
though visibly anguished over what they were being asked to 
do, were incapable of saying no to the "authority," a psycholo- 
gist in a white coat. Sixty-five percent of these ordinary people 
were willing to inflict severe, possibly permanent, damage by 
pushing the bogus lever of the apparatus to its highest setting. 
Even when they heard terrible screaming from the other room, 
they could not bring themselves to walk out on the experi- 

Flying and Seeing 317 

menter. This phenomenon — Milgram calls it "obedience to 
authority" — crosses all cultures and age groups, with children 
slightly more susceptible than adults. 

Most people conform in exchange for the world's acceptance. 
If we already feel at home in the world, deeply related and 
comfortable, if we are unafraid, we do not have to strike this 
kind of bargain. The autonomous learner navigates by an inner 
gyroscope, obeying an internal authority. Sarah McCarthy, a 
Pittsburgh schoolteacher, urged that educators introduce re- 
medial programs for "overly obedient" children, teaching them 
a kind of creative, appropriate disobedience as an antidote to 
the Milgram effect. 


Although the rise in educational alternatives has been relatively 
dramatic, most families do not have access to innovative 
schools, open classrooms, and the kinds of teachers who can 
make it work — who resonate, celebrate, initiate. 

Help is at hand — not a uniformed cavalry to the rescue, but 
volunteers, renegades, advance scouts. There are new places to 
learn, new ways to learn, new people to teach, new abilities to 
master, new connections to be made. We are moving into a 
period of learning without boundaries, age limits, prerequi- 
sites, flunking. The larger educational matrix draws heavily on 
the community and on entrepreneurs who have discovered the 
thirst for learning, for transformative technologies, for useful 
skills and knowledge. 

Achieving paidea, the Radical Center, the heavenly city; 
"teaching both halves of the brain" — this is no small ambition. 
No school can do it. No school has ever done it. Only a community 
can offer holistic education, and only a whole person can take 
it. Simultaneous personal and social transformation can take us 
into what Confucius called "the great learning," compared to 
the "little learning" imparted by the schools. "The university 
will most likely not grow into the size of a city," said William 
Irwin Thompson in The Edge of History. "It will shrink as it 
realizes that it is the city itself (and not the campus) that is the 
true university." 

The greatest re-form of education may be decentralizaton , the 
dismantling of the windowless walls that have closed off school 
from community, from the milieu of real life. Ronald Gross, an 
educator, said: 

318 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

My hope is that through the gradual weakening of the 
constraints of schooling, we will so loosen its fabric and so 
strengthen the opportunities to learn from other sources, 
that it will become impossible to separate learning from 
life, and student and teacher from friends learning 
together. For this we need a real flowering of other 

A top-level government policymaker for education specu- 
lates that we may eventually have the equivalent of the GI 
Education Bill in lieu of compulsory curricula — an allotment to 
be spent by the individual for whatever learning, specialized or 
general, he seeks: "funding the student and not the institu- 
tion." The idea of educational vouchers in lieu of compulsory 
public education has appeal across the political spectrum, how- 
ever starkly different the radical and conservative rationales 
may be. 

Demystification, decentralization, despecialization are the 
order of the day. Most of the exciting changes and successes in 
education's new incarnation reflect its return to its proper 
keepers, the community and the learner. Just as medicine's 
turnabout was instigated not only by reformer-doctors but also 
by biofeedback clinicians, nutritionists, psychologists, jour- 
nalists, brain scientists, and those from dozens of other disci- 
plines; so new partnerships in education mean new life. 

The learning process has opened up: universities without 
walls, "free universities," mobile schools, work-study projects 
even for young children, medieval-style tutoring programs, 
community-run schools, elderly volunteers in the schools and 
youngsters in real work environments, field trips, adult educa- 
tion, an explosion of crafts and self-teaching literature for skills, 
life-experience credit toward college degrees, private instruc- 
tion, peer teaching, skill-sharing, student-service and restora- 
tion projects in the community. And technological aids are get- 
ting cheaper and more accessible — tape-cassette instruction, 
for example, and computer kits. 

Teaching and learning are now cottage industries. The 
home-start projects for disadvantaged children, community- 
run public schools, parent-created learning and play groups for 
preschoolers and after school, learning networks, the successes 
of Jesse Jackson's PUSH program urging pride and literacy 
among ghetto kids — all are essentially independent of the 

Part of the transformative process is becoming a learner 

Flying and Seeing 319 

again, whatever your age. When we were children we had little 
choice about what and how we learned. In this sense, most of 
us remain passive children for the rest of our lives, never aware 
that we can choose, never aware that learning — transforma- 
tion — takes place. We grow up, whatever our age, whenever 
we take over the process, when we become conscious learners 
rather than accidental learners. 

"All of us," said Jerry Fletcher of the Office of the Assistant 
Secretary of Education, "even those apparently most fully 
functioning, have areas of our lives in which we are blocked, 
unable to fully experience and develop." True education, he 
said, strengthens the capacity to continue to make sense of 
one's life as it develops. 

A change in cultural expectations will do a lot. One of the 
things that will change the cultural climate most rapidly is 
a carefully worked-out description of the levels that are 
possible above what most adults now attain. If our descrip- 
tion of this becomes accepted as legitimate in the culture, 
we are on our way. 

An example of the openness to lifelong learning is the El- 
derhostel program, a network of residential study programs for 
adult learners on two hundred college campuses. Similar pro- 
grams are in effect in France, Switzerland, Belgium, Poland, 
and Canada. The participants, primarily older people, need not 
have had a formal education. Mental and physical stimulation 
are provided in college-level classes and physical activities, lec- 
tures, and round tables. 

"Free universities" first appeared in the mid-sixties as part of 
the student rebellion. Now nearly two hundred independent 
free universities around the country offer a potpourri of non- 
credit courses in every imaginable subject. Seventeen thousand 
attended Denver Free University's summer session in 1979. 
The state of Kansas is offering the free schools funding assis- 
tance in the hope that they may create a sense of community in 
rural areas. 

In 1971 a consortium of twenty-five colleges and universities 
formed the University Without Walls (UWW) program, which 
they administer as the Union of Experimenting Colleges and 
Universities. Similar programs, many with less firm accredita- 
tion than the UWW, have been developed all over the country, 
some modeled on Britain's Open University. 

Jose Arguelles said of such networks: 

320 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

What the networking model suggests is a common 
paradigm linking together the physical and psychological, 
the intellectual and the intuitive, the left hemisphere and 
the right hemisphere. . . . 

Just as the human being goes from childhood to puberty 
and sexual awareness, so the idea of educational network- 
ing must . . . take its place in the great and fertile context of 
ideas and social values which comprise the evolutionary 
thrust of humanity. 

We give each other the courage to move into the unknown, 
to risk in each other's company and with each other's blessings. 
We are constantly engaged in what someone has called 
"mutual education." One who has become involved in his own 
education again needs the company of others on that journey. 
When we say we've "outgrown" someone or someone has 
outgrown us, we mean that one of us in interested in learning 
and the other is not. 

It is characteristic of the Aquarian Conspirators to describe as 
their teachers not only formal educators but also their friends, 
children, spouses, former spouses, parents, colleagues — and 
life events. If you are noncompetitive and nonhierarchical in 
defining masters and learners, then everyone is a teacher, 
every experience a lesson, every relationship a course of study. 
"Even the stone is a teacher," said the Sufi, Idries Shah. 

The intense intellectual and spiritual sharing of the Aquarian 
Conspiracy, the joint expeditions into new territory, the pool- 
ing of the wealth, create the kind of mutual inspiration John 
Gowan described. The almost sexual interplay of ideas, yin and 
yang, old and new. East and West, results in a kind of collec- 
tive synthesis: a creative community, hospitable to risk and 


Long before Thomas Kuhn observed that new ideas may have 
to wait for a new generation's acceptance, folk wisdom made 
this bittersweet point. A Hebrew proverb warns, "Do not con- 
fine your children to your own learning, for they were bom in 
another time." 

Karl Pribram once commented that a new generation will 
leam about paradox in the early grades and will grow up un- 
derstanding concepts of primary and secondary levels of real- 

Flying and Seeing 321 

ity. Not long thereafter, coincidentally, a junior-high student, 
John Shimotsu of Los Angeles, tried his hand at interpreting 
for his fellow eighth graders the holographic model of reality 
proposed by Pribram and physicist David Bohm. In conclusion, 
he said: 

Why can't you perform actions that we consider paranor- 
mal? I think it is because you do not think you can. You 
may say you wish to, or may sincerely want to, but that 
will not change what you subconsciously think. Our cul- 
ture says that those actions would not be possible, so that 
is what you think is real. To change your reality, you would 
have to alter your innermost thoughts . The holographic idea is 
fascinating. What is theory today may be fact tomorrow. 

All over the world, children and young people are being ex- 
posed, via the communications revolution, to such ideas. They 
are not limited to the parochial beliefs of a single culture. 

Paul Nash likened this shift in realities to the gap between an 
immigrant couple and their children. “The children usually 
learn the language and adopt the local mores more easily than 
do the older folks, who become dependent on the children as 
guides to the 'new world.'" 

Variations on this theme, the powers of the child and the 
primitive, appear in recent writings like Joseph Chilton 
Pearce's Magical Child and Lyall Watson's Gift of Unknown 
Things. A generation in love with Tolkien's fantasy and Cas- 
taneda's sorcerer are ready for magic in themselves and in their 
young children. 

Entry into this new world is suggested by the titles of confer- 
ences on transpersonal learning and childrearing: Children of the 
New Age, Celebration of the Child, Nurturing the Child of the Fu- 
ture, The Metaphoric Mind, The Conscious Child, Transpersonal 
Frontiers, Infinite Frontiers. 

If education cannot be mended, perhaps it can metamor- 
phose. As someone pointed out, trying to explain the differ- 
ence between reform and transformation, we have been trying 
to attach wings to a caterpillar. Our interventions in the learn- 
ing process to date have been almost that crude. It is high time 
we freed ourselves of attachment to old forms and eased the 
flight of the unfettered human mind. 



of Values 
and Vocation 

If the nature of the work is properly appreciated 
and applied, it will stand in the same relation to the higher 
faculties as food is to the physical body. 

— /.C. KUMARAPPA, philosopher and economist 

If there is power in the transformative experience, it 
Ik must inevitably shake our values and, therefore, the 
/yCwWV total economy — the marketplace, the factory, corpo- 
rations, the professions, small business, social wel- 
fare. And it must redefine what we mean by words like "rich" 
and "poor"; it must make us rethink what we owe each other, 
what is possible, what is appropriate. Sooner or later, the new 
paradigm changes the individual's relationship to work; part- 
time transformation is inherently impossible. 

Making a life, not just a living, is essential to one seeking 
wholeness. Our hunger turns out to be for something different, 
not something more. Buying, selling, owning, saving, sharing, 
keeping, investing, giving — these are outward expressions of 
inward needs. When those needs change, as in personal trans- 
formation, economic patterns change. For example, spending 


324 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

is an opiate to many people, a balm to disappointments, frus- 
trations, emptiness. If the individual transforms that inner dis- 
tress, there is less need for drugs and distractions. Inner listen- 
ing makes clearer to us what we really want, as distinct from 
what we have been talked into, and it might not have a price 
tag. We may also discover that "ownership” is in some sense 
an illusion, that holding on to things can keep us from freely 
enjoying them. Greater awareness may give us new apprecia- 
tion for simple things. And quality becomes important — the 
much-talked-about "quality of life." If work becomes reward- 
ing, not just obligatory, that also reorders values and priorities. 

We will look at the evidence for a new paradigm, based on 
values, which transcends the old paradigm of economics, with 
its emphasis on growth, control, manipulation. The shift to the 
values paradigm is reflected in changing patterns of work, 
career choice, consumption . . . evolving lifestyles that take ad- 
vantage of synergy, sharing, barter, cooperation, and cre- 
ativity . . . the transformation of the workplace, in business, in- 
dustry, professions, the arts . . . innovations in management 
and worker participation, including the decentralization of 
power ... the rise of a new breed of entrepreneurs ... the 
search for "appropriate technology" ... the call for an eco- 
nomics congruent with nature rather than the mechanistic 
views that have propelled us into our present crises. 


We have proved that you can't eat yourself slim. Trying to 
consume our way to prosperity, we have been exhausting our 
resources. High production costs, scarcities, inflation, and se- 
vere unemployment have become our regular diet. 

Because the economy is such a political issue it is propagan- 
dized, rationalized, lied about. Because our beliefs about the 
economy affect it, as in the "confidence index," business and 
government try to buffer the reaction of investors and consum- 
ers to unnerving economic news. 

And because divergent viewpoints are loudly argued, you 
can choose whom to believe: 

Nuclear power is essential/deadly. 

Solar energy will be cheap/impractical. 

Fossil fuel is plentiful/exhausted. 

We should consume/conserve. 

Full employment is feasible/impossible. 

Values and Vocation 325 

Automation/environmentalism do/do not undermine jobs 
and growth. 

There are illusions of rescue by technology, by the reshuf- 
fling of moneys and resources. But our temporary easing of this 
chronic illness — scarcities, dislocated markets, unemployment, 
obsolescence — is as dangerous as the medical treatment of 
symptoms when the cause of disease is unknown. Our inter- 
vention in the body economic, like intervention by drugs and 
surgery, often leads to severe side effects requiring further and 
deeper intervention. 

The crisis is evident in the chronic nature of unemployment 
and underemployment: the technological obsolescence that has 
overtaken millions of specialized skilled workers, increasing 
numbers of the highly educated vying for too few white-collar 
jobs, increasing numbers of teenagers and women trying to 
enter the work force. 

A United States Department of Labor study found "true 
unemployment" — including those working but with earnings 
below the poverty level — more than 40 percent. Fewer jobs, 
more applicants. Proportionately fewer interesting jobs. 
Technological ingenuity that doubles the productivity of 
worker A so that B can be laid off so that A can grumble about 
paying taxes to help support a demoralized B. Affirmative- 
action programs that often just redistribute the unfairness and 
bitterness to a different group. 

Labor and management savage each other periodically, like 
crazy Siamese twins who don't know that their lifeblood is 
the same. 

The indices of our economy are often misleading. For exam- 
ple, the Gross National Product figures include the expendi- 
tures for treating disease, repairing wrecked automobiles, and 
eliminating factory pollution; that is, we are measuring activity, 
not true production. It is increasingly evident that our efforts 
to control, explain, and understand the economy are wholly 

The economy is alive and integrated, more an organism than 
a machine. It has qualities as well as quantities. Like the wea- 
ther, it cannot be repaired. It won't be still long enough and is 
predictable only in patches. Even its "laws" are only descrip- 
tions of the past. "The truth is," said David Stemlight, chief 
economist for the Atlantic Richfield Company, "there are no 
facts about the future." 

It is fashionable to assume that any economic prediction is 
better than none, E. F. Schumacher said in 1961. "Make a 

326 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

guess, call it an assumption, and derive an estimate by subtle 
calculation. The estimate is then presented as the result of sci- 
entific reasoning, something far superior to mere guesswork." 
Colossal planning errors result because this method offers "a 
bogus answer where an entrepreneurial judgment is required." 

The unexamined assumption of the old paradigm — 
dominant since the days of John Locke — is that human beings 
are most deeply motivated by economic concerns. Yet, beyond 
a certain level of material sufficiency, other strong needs clearly 
take precedence: the desire to be healthy, to be loved, to feel 
competent, to participate fully in society, to have meaningful 
employment. And even if Locke were right about our economic 
motives, we would have to change: Our civilization cannot go 
on escalating its manufacture and consumption of non-renew- 
able resources. 

Assessing the New York City financial crisis in the mid- 
seventies, Julius Stulman of the World Institute said that our 
greatest mistake is that we continue to relate everything to the 
past, "the steps we have laboriously climbed for six thousand 
years — brick by brick, hand over fist, in singular, linear fash- 
ion. However necessary those steps may have been to our evo- 
lution, that stage has ended. We cannot cope until we think differ- 

Our best hope now is to pay attention, to recognize the ways 
in which our lives and livelihood have been influenced, even 
run, by outmoded structures. Our ideas about work, money, 
and management grew out of an old stable social order irrele- 
vant to present flux and were based on a view of humankind 
and nature long since transcended in science. The real world 
turns on different principles than those imposed by our partial 
economic philosphies. 



The economic systems of the modern world take sides in the 
old argument: individual versus society. When we are 
polarized, we are arguing about the wrong issue. Rather than 
debating whether capitalism is right in its emphasis on oppor- 
tunities for the individual or socialism in its concern for the 
collective, we should reframe the question: Is a materialistic 
society suited to human needs? Both capitalism and socialism. 

Values and Vocation 327 

as we know them, pivot on material values. They are in- 
adequate philosophies for a transformed society. 

The failures of our economic philosophies, like the failures of 
our political reforms, can be attributed to their emphasis on the 
external. Inner values, like inner reform, precede outward 
change. In synthesis may be our salvation — the path between 
right and left Aldous Huxley called "decentralism and coopera- 
tive enterprise, an economic and political system most natural 
to spirituality." 

Just as health is vastly more than medicine, just as learning 
transcends education, so a system of values is the context for 
the workings of any economy. Whatever our priorities — self- 
aggrandizement, efficiency, status, health, security, recreation, 
human relationships, competition, cooperation, craftsmanship, 
material goods — they are reflected in the workings of the 
economy. A society that prizes external symbols will want 
showy automobiles, whatever the cost. A family that values 
education may make considerable sacrifices to pay tuition for a 
private school. One who values adventure may give up a finan- 
cially secure job to sail around the world. 

Most importantly, when people become autonomous, their 
values become internal. Their purchases and their choice of 
work begin to reflect their own authentic needs and desires 
rather than the values imposed by advertisers, family, peers, 

Louis Mobley, former director of executive training for IBM, 
suggested that the turn inward marks a cultural reversal. Hav- 
ing concluded an era in which we looked only outward and 
denied our inner realities, we are now making value judg- 
ments. "And that's why the answers escape economists." The 
1978 Nobel laureate in economics, Herbert Simon, criticizes the 
classic "rational" assumptions of economists and their con- 
sequent failure to deal with changing values and expectations. 

Societies, as Ilya Prigogine pointed out, are the strangest and 
most unstable of dissipative structures. The complexity of our 
modern pluralistic society and the increasingly autonomous 
values of its people have created vast economic uncertainty. 
Now we need an approach to the economy comparable to the 
wise uncertainty of the physicist. 1 

The two paradigms might be summarized as follows: 

'Max Planck once said that he had started out as a student of economics: 
finding it too difficult, he took up physics. 

328 The Aquarian Conspiracy 


Promotes consumption at 
all costs, via planned 
obsolescence, advertising 
pressure, creation of 
artificial "needs.” 

People to fit jobs. Rigidity. 

Imposed goals, top-down 
decision-making . 
Heirarchy, bureaucracy. 

compartmentalization in 
work and roles. Emphasis 
on specialized tasks. 
Sharply defined job 

Identification with job, 
organization, profession. 

Clockwork model of 
economy, based on 
Newtonian physics. 

Aggression, competition. 
"Business is business." 

Work and play separate. 
Work as means to an end. 

Manipulation and 
dominance of nature. 




Conserving, keeping, 
recycling, quality, 
innovation, invention to 
serve authentic needs. 

Jobs to fit people. 
Flexibility. Creativity. 
Form and flow. 

Autonomy encouraged. 
Self-actualization . 

Worker participation, 
democratization. Shared 
goals, consensus. 

Cross-fertilization by 
specialists seeing wider 
relevance of their field of 
expertise. Choice and 
change in job roles 

Identity transcends job 

Recognition of 
uncertainty in 

Cooperation. Human 
values transcend 

Blurring of work and play. 
Work rewarding in itself. 

Cooperation with nature; 
taoistic, organic view of 
work and wealth. 

Values and Vocation 


Struggle for stability, 
station, security. 

Quantitative: quotas, 
status symbols, level of 
income, profits, “raises," 
Gross National Product, 
tangible assets. 

Strictly economic motives, 
material values. Progress 
judged by product, 

Polarized: labor versus 
management, consumer 
versus manufacturer, etc. 

exploitation of limited 

“Rational," trusting only 

Emphasis on short-term 


Sense of change, 
becoming. Willingness 
to risk. Entrepreneurial 

Qualitative as well as 
quantitative. Sense of 
achievement, mutual 
effort for mutual 
enrichment. Values 
intangible assets 
(creativity, fulfillment) 
as well as tangible. 

Spiritual values transcend 
material gain; material 
sufficiency. Process as 
important as product. 
Context of work as 
important as content — 
not just what you do but 
how you do it. 

Transcends polarities. 
Shared goals, values. 

Ecologically sensitive 
to ultimate costs. 

Rational and intuitive. 
Data, logic augmented by 
hunches, feelings, 
insights, nonlinear 
(holistic) sense of pattern. 

Recognition that 
long-range efficiency 
must take into account 
harmonious work 
environment, employee 
health, customer 

330 The Aquarian Conspiracy 


Centralized operations. 

Runaway, unbridled 
technology. Subservience 
to technology. 

Allopathic treatment of 
“symptoms" in economy. 


Decentralized operations 
wherever possible. 

Human scale. 

Appropriate technology. 
Technology as tool, not 

Attempt to understand 
the whole, locate 
deep underlying 
causes of disharmony, 
disequilibrium. Preventive 
“medicine," anticipation 
of dislocations, scarcities. 



In the nineteenth century John Stuart Mill saw past the early 
materialist promises of the Industrial Age: “No great im- 
provements in the lot of mankind are possible until a great 
change takes place in their mode of thought." In the 1930s 
historian Arnold Toynbee spoke of “etherealization" — the de- 
velopment of higher, intangible riches as the ultimate growth 
of a civilization. 

There seems to be growing sympathy, if not a mandate, for 
reversing the materialist trend. Maybe the etherealization is 
happening. A 1977 Harris poll showed an astounding prepon- 
derance of persons — 79 percent — favoring better use of basic 
essentials rather than reaching higher material standards of 
living. A similar percentage preferred spending more time on 
human interaction rather than improved technological com- 
munication and hoped to see the society appreciate human 
values over material values. The idea of developing bigger and 
more efficient ways of doing things was less attractive than 
“breaking up big things and getting back to more humanized 

A majority said they preferred finding inner rewards from 
work rather than increasing productivity, and they wanted to 
see their children's education directed more toward such in- 

Values and Vocation 331 

tangible rewards than toward a higher material standard of 

Most people living in the United States today have sampled 
the fruits of at least a little affluence. We have been free of the 
desperate survival needs that haunted generations of human 
history and still haunt whole populations. Still there is hunger, 
of a different kind, and still we are not free. Beyond our com- 
pulsive, addictive behavior, we can discover what we want; we 
can pay attention to the unfocused questions inside us. Now 
we are asking. What matters? 

Our prehistoric ancestors helped lay the groundwork for this 
anticipation, in a sense, when they stopped being hunters and 
gatherers and became farmers, cooperating with nature's major 
cycles. Perhaps that is where we got our “agribusiness" minds, 
plowing and planning, concerned for the coming harvest. 
Perhaps we may become hunters and gatherers of a sort again, 
living for the day's treasures as well as for the long growing 

Perhaps, as one report put it, we are living in a “post- 
extravagant society." We seem to be hunting for meaning, for a 
transcendent vision like that of our founding fathers. 

The etherealization was expressed by one of the Aquarian 
Conspirators, a teacher: 

I have been influenced by knowing and sharing with per- 
sons who have no major needs (financially well-to-do) and 
with persons who voluntarily adopt poverty (religious 
vows). It is mainly in terms of these associations that I have 
been able to order my values: authentic vs. inauthentic, 
must-haves vs. nice-to-haves, permanent vs. immediate, 
happiness vs. pleasure. 

Autonomous human beings can create and invent. And they 
can change their minds, repudiating values they once held. 
Business analysts are now looking realistically at the creeping 
effects of what were once the values of the counterculture. 
They see the coming of age of a generation less impressed by 
the old toys and symbols. 

A Bank of America economist said in 1977 that the demand 
for durable goods was likely to level off permanently as more 
and more Americans see national and personal consumption as 
wasteful. Goods would increasingly be purchased as replace- 
ments rather than as symbols of conspicuous consumption or 

332 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

because of style and model changes. The pendulum would 
swing back to the virtues of thrift, integrity, and high moral 
values, he predicted. The primary population growth over the 
next decade, those twenty-five to thirty-four years old, will 
place a high value on the quality and social implications of their 

A young truck driver with a liberal arts degree answered 
the frequent question about what he intended to do with his 

I will practice living. I will develop my intellect, which may 
incidentally contribute to the elevation of the esthetic and 
cultural levels of society. I will try to develop the noble and 
creative elements within me. I will contribute very little to 
the grossness of the national product. 

His five-year struggle to earn a living intensified his apprecia- 
tion and respect for his education, he said. The environment in 
which he worked was so hostile to imagination that his books 
and art were especially exciting and vital to him. “I work along- 
side people who attempt to secure meaning for their lives by pur- 
suing the tawdry baubles American industry has to offer " 


However many wars and weapons we may have devised, 
human beings are a biologically social, cooperative species. We 
have survived by helping each other. Even our prehistoric an- 
cestors exhibited tenderness, lining their children's slippers 
with fur, caring for their cripples; recent archeological evidence 
suggests that they buried their dead with flowers. 

The whole is richer than its parts. This synergy has opened 
the way for new sources of goods and services: cooperatives, 
barter, mutual-help networks. Pooled resources make 
everyone richer, pooled information makes everyone smarter, 
and nothing is lost in the dispersal. 

Older than money, ancient economic shortcuts like coopera- 
tives, credit unions, and barter give leanness to the cumber- 
some distribution system, for they involve only that which 
people want and have to offer, in contrast to the ever- 
accelerating production of items people have to be persuaded 
to buy or “invest in." 

There are modern urban counterparts of quilting bees, barn- 

Values and Vocation 333 

raisings, and farmers' co-ops. Carpools, learning networks, 
food cooperatives, and shared childcare create a sense of com- 
munity as well as an economic boost. 2 

Popular women's magazines have begun publishing articles 
on how to start networks and cooperatives. Low-income 
people formed the Oregon Urban-Rural (OUR) credit union, in 
the tradition of the drought-poor villagers in southern Ger- 
many who started the first credit union in the mid-nineteenth 
century. Around the country, labor pools and service collec- 
tives have coalesced. Free for All in Los Angeles was organized 
for the bartering of services. Commerical barter companies like 
Trade- Americard, Executive Trade Club, Charge-a-Trade, and 
Business Exchange swap and credit goods and services to their 
members through sophisticated bookkeeping. One barter com- 
pany does a yearly business of around one hundred million 
dollars in reciprocal trade agreements, recycling surpluses and 
mistakes, advertising space, and hotel rooms. About seventy- 
five bartering groups in the United States are franchised under 
the International Trade Exchange. 3 They use computers to 
facilitate the transactions among member businesses, trades- 
people, and professionals. Trading, as the owners of one ex- 
change remarked, helps beat inflation. Barter is likely to boom 
in a recession. New Age observed: 

In a time when the little metal and paper tokens we call 
wealth are becoming increasingly isolated from the craft or 
toil which they are supposed to represent, the business of 
barter seems a healthy trend indeed. "Payment in kind," 
the original mode of economic transaction, is grounded on 

immigrants to California established similar networks, according to 
sociologists. James Q. Wilson described a version of urban labor-swapping in 
California in the 1950s that foreshadowed today's extensive bartering: “The 
Southern California equivalent of the eastern uncle who could get it for you 
wholesale was the Los Angeles brother-in-law who would help you put on a 
new roof or paint the garage, or lend you (and show you how to use) his power 
saw. A vast, informally organized labor exchange permeated the region, with 
occasional trades of great complexity running through several 
intermediaries — the friend who would ask his brother, the plumber, to help 
you, if you would ask your uncle with the mixer to lay concrete in front of 
somebody's sister's home. Saturday saw people driving all over the county, 
carrying out these assignments." 

3 Barter is also big business these days among trading corporations within the 
Soviet Union and among multi-national companies that trade raw materials for 
finished products. 

334 The Aquarian Conspiraa / 

cooperation more than competition; rather than the ac- 
cumulation of money for its own sake, it stresses the qual- 
ity of human work. 

The founders of Provender, a natural-food cooperative in the 
Northwest, wrote of the self-reliance and regional unity they 
sensed when they joined forces: "Fellow cooperators, we can 

celebrate the birth of a network " 

The reward transcends the mere economics involved, as can 
be seen by some of the statements of purpose of such networks: 

. . . The Community Soap Factory and the co-ops were 
started, not because of the promise of commercial success 
— by those standards they are risky — but by the beliefs in 

an ideal, a vision of how society might be If we can 

formulate a cogent, communitarian ideology, many more 
people will be moved to create and support alternative 

* * * 

We focus on right attitude and right timing. This opening 
up and transformation of the power dynamic is the very 
stuff which will move us into a new age of compassion and 

* * * 

The work of our communities is to lay the foundation, the 
groundwork ... to develop the models, designs, and ar- 
chetypes of a new civilization. 

* * * 

The Community Memory Project will help people connect 
to others of similar interests and will add exchange of 
goods, resources, and ideas. This network is nonhierarchi- 
cal and interactive — that is, the information in the system 
is created and shared by the people who use it, not "broad- 
cast" from a central authority. 

Cooperative ventures include intentional communities and 
shared housing. In some cases several families have collectively 
developed apartment houses and condominiums. Some have 
acquired clusters of private residences and established specific 
communal activities like shared gardens and shared weekly 
meals. The commune comprised of middle-class profession- 

Values and Vocation 335 

als is becoming increasingly commonplace. In fact, the 1980 
census was designed with a special category for communal 

One example of an established large communal household is 
Ramagiri, a center whose members came together in 1971 after 
experimentation in smaller groups. There are now forty mem- 
bers (including ten married couples, four pairs of siblings) liv- 
ing on a 250-acre California farm that was once a small Catholic 
seminary. Ramagiri has its own sustaining businesses, but 
most of the residents work outside as teachers, health profes- 
sionals (nurses, physical therapists, nutritionists), secretaries. 
Two young medical residents plan to open a practice together. 
A garden, office, and kitchen are communally operated. The 
commune has published several successful books by Eknath 
Easwaran, the Indian teacher around whom its members ori- 
ginally coalesced, and a best-seller. Laurel’s Cookbook. 

Members of Movement for a New Society, a Philadelphia 
group, live in fourteen communally operated houses. They run 
a media training group, seminars, an organization for older 
women, and a 'Transit collective” for shared transportation. 
They publish Resource Manual for a Living Revolution and other 
literature on nonviolent cultural change. 

A group in the making. Cooperative College Community, 
has been coordinating the efforts of teachers and artists from 
East Coast colleges to live together on a large tract of land, 
already acquired, and operate a small liberal arts college. Its 
organizers stated: 

We conceive of this enterprise as an experiment in human 
values. It is an attempt to demonstrate that a rich and 
dignified life can be sustained in an economically limited 
community, [by] sharing labor and political responsi- 
bility, choosing to restrict accumulation and consumption 
of material wealth, and making efficient use of natural re- 
sources We do not presume to be presenting either a 

social panacea or an easily replicable paradigm for every 
existing social institution. But we do believe we are realiz- 
ing one possible alternative, thus concretely challenging 
prevailing conceptions of social and economic organi- 

One participant in a communal project said, "We are not 
land developers, we are community discoverers. We do not 

336 The Aquarian Conspiraq / 

offer a dream home but an opportunity to create a new life 
more satisfying than the one we are leaving behind." 

From a newsletter: 

One of our objectives is to demonstrate that it is possible 
for a group of ordinary human beings to come together 
and to create a "new-age" community. New-age com- 
munities are not going to be built by big governments or by 
big corporations, and it probably wouldn't be a good idea 
for that to happen anyhow. We think it is desirable for 
people to take charge of their own lives, to become self- 
reliant (as groups). ... We want to show that life can 
be lived more simply, in harmony with nature, within 
the constraints of nature, cooperatively, creatively, hu- 
manly. . . . We hope to see a network of New Age com- 
munities, sharing, working, helping each other. 

Some of the larger communities have indeed established ties; 
they are not competitive, and however different the expres- 
sion, their visions have much in common. A magazine pub- 
lished for cooperative communities praised the networking be- 
tween the larger ones, such as Arcosanti (Arizona), Another 
Place (New England), Auroville (India), and Findhorn (Scot- 
land): "An important element of this sense of world commu- 
nity is the reaching beyond our idiosyncrasies, getting at the 
essence of what we are trying to do. Our work must be trans- 
latable to be usable." 

An ever-changing portion of the population is living a shared 
dream in the midst of the wreckage of the old dream. One 
observer said, "Communes have been no less successful than 
the mundane American Dream. We judge them more harshly 
because they attempted to be more." We also judge them too 
often by the values of the old paradigm: economic success and 

Another Place, a rural collective and network in New Hamp- 
shire, welcomes people involved in politics, alternative 
schools, meditation, holistic health — "creative alternatives to 
the dominant society." It takes its name from a poem by Wen- 
dell Berry, whose book. The Unsettling of America, is influential 
among community builders: 

. . . the mind turns, seeks a new 
nativity — another place. 

Values and Vocation 


simpler, less weighted 
by what has already been. 

Another place 
it's enough to grieve me — 
that old dream of going, 
of becoming a better man 
just by getting up and going 
to a better place. 

The mystery. The old 
unaccountable unfolding. 

The iron trees in the park 
suddenly remember forests. 

It becomes possible to think of going. 

The new life begins, not with action but with a new awareness, 
when it first becomes possible to think of going. 

In community, in human exchange, there is a qualitatively 
different kind of wealth. 


Our values come consciously out of our understanding — or un- 
consciously, out of our conditioning. As we become aware of 
once-unconscious motives, we may awaken to what we really 
want and what our options are. 

Just as the public has withdrawn considerable legitimacy 
from its other institutions, it has become increasingly suspi- 
cious of the consumption ethic — the mystique of things. The 
consumer movement, for one thing, raised awareness about 
shoddy business practices and deceptive merchandise. The 
ecology movement raised questions about environmental 
quality and exploitation of resources. Our growing sophisti- 
cation has made us less susceptible to the glossy fictions of 

Our problems are often the natural side effects of our suc- 
cesses. For example, increasing efficiency in production meant 
that fewer people could produce the basics of life, so we were 
trained over the decades to "need" more (or better, or differ- 
ent). People were there to serve the economy, prodded by gov- 
ernment as well as by business, teased by gimmickry, tricked 
by obsolescence. 

We all know the feeling of being offered food when we are 

338 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

not hungry. Now, as consumers, we may find that our appe- 
tites are changing. Knowing what we want, we may spend 
less, we may spend more, or we may spend differently. In 1936 
Richard Gregg, a political philosopher, coined the term volun- 
tary simplicity to describe a lifestyle in which one avoids clutter 
and focuses one's energies on what really matters. “The degree 
of simplification,” Gregg said, “is a matter for each individual 
to settle for himself." A person living a life of voluntary simplic- 
ity might choose to own a costly and sophisticated quad- 
raphonic sound system, for example, and drive an old car. 

Voluntary simplicity is an attitude, not a budget: thoughtful 
consumption, resistance to artificially created “needs," sen- 
sitivity to the limits of natural resources, a more human scale 
for living and working. According to a Stanford Research Insti- 
tute (Sffl) report, adherents of voluntary simplicity want to 
realize “higher human potential, both psychological and spiri- 
tual, in community with others." 

The report, which provoked more reprint requests from the 
business community than any other publication in the history 
of the think tank, warned business interests that a different 
social order may be in the making, one aimed more toward 
material sufficiency than material abundance. Its values would 
favor enlightened self-interest rather than competition, coop- 
eration rather than rugged individualism, and both rational 
and intuitive judgments. An ever-growing segment of the 
population cares little for status or fashion, is willing to recycle 
durable goods and pay for products that are healthful, non- 
polluting, authentic, esthetically pleasing. Many of these pro- 
ducts and the services likely to become popular are as easily 
furnished by entrepreneurs and local businesses as by multi- 
national giants. The report was not an economic forecast to 
cheer General Motors and General Electric. 4 

Laurence Peter, author of The Peter Principle, related how he 
and his wife determined not to let their possessions possess 
them. Their move toward deliberate simplicity was “not an 
attempt to live cheaply but rather to achieve a better balance 
between the material and nonmaterial components of life." 
Each new acquisition, whether esthetic or practical, was chosen 
for its quality and permanence as well as for its real need. 

4 A three-year, one-million-dollar study of changing consumer values, released 
by SRI in 1979, predicted a continuing shift away from conventional materialis- 
tic values by individuals across the economic spectrum. 

Values and Vocation 339 

Until I replaced our cheap power lawnmower with the 
highest quality hand mower obtainable, I would not have 
believed what a big step forward I was taking. The hand 
mower costs more but is a delight to operate. It never runs 
out of fuel. It never tests my patience getting it started. It 
emits no pollutants. It provides me with healthful exercise. 

I can stop and start it with ease. I feel in control. I feel 
relieved of the nervous strain, the safety hazards, and the 
inevitable mechanical problems and responsibilities that 
power equipment entails. 

For most of its adherents, voluntary simplicity is neither al- 
truistic nor a sacrifice. It can even be hedonistic. Simple life- 
styles can become a pleasure in themselves. 

One advocate called it “the only way to be rich." Usually it is 
embedded in larger changes: a deepened appreciation of ordi- 
nary pleasures, a keen sense of living in the moment, the com- 
pany of affectionate, like-minded friends. One of the profound 
rewards of the transformative process is the discovery of how 
much we really have. Enhanced attention reveals all the valu- 
ables we have misplaced, forgotten, or — blinded by habit- 
failed to notice: books, records, people, pets, vistas, lost arts, 
neglected hobbies, abandoned dreams. "I'm not at all contemp- 
tuous of the comforts," economist E. F. Schumacher once said, 
“but they have their place, and it is not first." The less you 
need, he remarked, the freer you become. In Thoreau's terms, 
“You must live within yourself and depend on yourself, always 
tucked up and ready for a start." 

"A realm of intimate personal power is developing," said the 
statement of purpose of the Whole Earth Catalog, "the power of 
the individual to conduct his own education, find his own in- 
spiration, shape his own environment. . . Kits, manuals, 
tools, books, and other resources in the catalog were geared to 
another vision of life, one rich in options. 

The originators of an environmental fair, the New Earth 
Expo, announced their eagerness to reach all those who as- 
sume there is no hope: "There are many things people can 
do to regain control over their own lives." Increasing self- 
sufficiency is one. 

Many businesses are already trying to respond to the coming 
wave of "conscious consumptions." In an SRI report Willis 
Flarman said, "Humanistic and transcendental values aren't a 
luxury imposed on economic values. They're the measure of 
the appropriateness of economic values. . . . We can choose either 

340 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

to understand and move with the tides of history, whatever 
they may be — or try to resist them. 5 

"Upon that choice may rest in great measure the state of 
business in 1990 — and beyond." 


Increasing numbers of business leaders are trying to articulate a 
new perspective. One Aquarian Conspirator who works with 
top management people around the country refers to the new 
"businessmen-philosophers" who talk to each other until three 
in the morning about their own changing values and their dis- 
coveries of human potential. Business executives may be the 
most open-minded group in the society, far more open than 
scholars and professionals, because their success depends on 
their being able to perceive early trends and new perspectives. 

Robert Fegley of General Electric described "a new breed of 
top executives" taking charge of American corporations, 
broader and deeper than most of their predecessors, more cur- 
rent, literate, articulate, open. Between 1976 and 1978, he said, 
the amount of time spent on public issues by chief executives of 
the top thousand corporations doubled — from 20 to 40 percent. 
"There is a deep interest in public attitudes and a desire to 
do something — not only to communicate 'our side of the story' 
but also to re-examine company policy and change it where 
necessary. ..." 

The president of Trans World Airlines, C. E. Meyer, Jr., ex- 
pressed the sense of transformed values in an editorial in the 
airline's magazine in July 1978. The most important change of 
the past decade was not technological advancement, he said, 
but "the virtual revolution that has occurred in our collective 
social awareness." After the turbulence, violence, and confron- 
tations of the late sixties came a period of looking inward, "as if 
our whole people, shocked and deeply sobered by those years 
of uproar . . . began working quietly to sort out the merits of all 
those causes." We have tried to heal divisions, both with in- 

5 One example of big business cooperating with social trends: Hofmann- 
LaRoche, the pharmaceutical company, began furnishing complimentary 
tapes on holistic medicine to physicians in the early 1970s and more recently 
sponsored symposia on such topics as alternatives to drug therapy. In 1979, 
with increasing numbers of people turning to vitamins and nutrition rather 
than drugs, Hofmann-LaRoche announced its plans to build an immense 
Vitamin C plant. 

Values and Vocation 341 

sight and with effort, resulting in a qualitative change in our 
national attitude — our concern for the environment, job secur- 
ity for the work force, dignity for the handicapped, enhanced 
purpose for the aged, and higher regard for the consumer. 
These causes are no longer considered controversial but “soci- 
ety's unfinished business," he said. 

Big business, in its need to understand the potential impact 
of the new paradigm, is becoming aware of the networks of the 
Aquarian Conspiracy as resources. This was the subject of a 
“preliminary document on emerging trends" published under 
the Diebold Corporate Issues Program in 1978: The Emergence of 
Personal Communications Networks Among People Sharing the New 
Values and Their Possible Use in Sensitizing Operating Management . 
Its authors urged that management try to "plug into" such 
networks, where new concepts were developed and ex- 
perimented with before moving into the marketplace. 

Such networks are submerged, of low visibility, "yet much of 
our future originates there." The report compared them to the 
committees of correspondents that helped design the American 
Revolution and to the "invisible college," the secret network of 
scientists in England before scientific research was legally 
sanctioned by King James II in 1663. 

In a section titled "Why We Do Not See Them," the report 
pointed out that groups emerging from the underground al- 
ways fear attack; and, being essentially creative, they shun 
formal organization in favor of flexibility and new forms. 

Before we can discuss these networks, we have a cultural 

problem to overcome Important organizational forms 

may exist which have none of the characteristics we 
usually associate with organizations. But their impact in 
originating the ideas that are shaping our times is undis- 
puted, and increasingly they are so pervasive that we are 
surrounded by them. It seems to me there is a common 
thread. ... In one sense, it's a more idealistic, more 
humane outlook — a feeling that such goals possess, by 
being so clearly morally right, an unarguable kind of au- 

That's part of it, but in another sense, it's a supremely 
pragmatic and realistic view they take of such things — 
recognizing that change of this kind, being irresistibly 
right, is also therefore inevitable, and that those who try to 
stand in its way can only dissipate their energies and sub- 
stance in a futile effort to hold back the tide. 

342 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

As an example, the report describes one such underground 
network, whose main orientation is radical science and trans- 
personal psychology and whose photo-copying is furnished by 
the vice-chairman of American Telephone and Telegraph. 

Changing Image of Man , the now-classic report issued by SRI 
in 1972, described a new transcendental social and business 
ethic characterized by self-determination, concern for the qual- 
ity of life, appropriate technology, entrepreneurship, decen- 
tralization, an ecological ethic, and spirituality. The report 
urged a rapid corporate understanding of this emergent order, 
"probably the most important observation of our time." 

The new order offers as exciting a challenge as the great 
geographical expeditions and technological breakthroughs of 
history, the report said. 


The contemporary individual's struggle to find that higher 
purpose — to find meaning in work — was discussed at length in 
The Gamesman, Michael Maccoby's composite portrait of the 
new corporate rebel. The gamesman is more innovative and 
playful than his predecessor, the "organization man," but still 
judges wins and losses by left-brain, manipulative rules. In a 
section titled "The Head and the Heart," Maccoby explored the 
uneasiness and frustration felt by many gamesmen, who ac- 
knowledged that they found little opportunity in their work to 
develop compassion, openness, humanness: 

People think of the qualities of the heart as opposite to 
those of the head. They think heart means softness, feel- 
ing, and generosity, while head means toughness, realistic 
thought. But this contrast itself is symptomatic of a 
schizoid culture in which the heart is detached from the 
rest of the body. In pre-Cartesian traditional thought, the 
heart was considered the true seat of intelligence. . . . The 
head can be smart but not wise. 

In the new paradigm, work is a vehicle for transformation. 
Through work we are fully engaged in life. Work can be what 
Milton Mayerhoff called "the appropriate other," that which 
requires us, which makes us care. In responding to vocation — 
the call, the summons of that which needs doing — we create 
and discover meaning, unique to each of us and always chang- 

Values and Vocation 343 

That famous transition, the mid-life crisis, may be due in part 
to the cumulative effect of decades of denial, the sudden thrust 
into consciousness of pain that can no longer be sedated. One 
sensitive observer of the phenomenon said that it manifests as 
"either a cry or a call" — a cry of disappointment or the stirring 
call to new purpose — to vocation — experienced by one who has 
been engaged in introspective, transformative processes for 
some time. 

However intently the person with a vocation may pursue his 
purpose, he should not be confused with a "workaholic." The 
workaholic, like an alcoholic, is indiscriminate in his compul- 
sion. He attempts to find meaning by working. The individual 
with a vocation, on the other hand, finds meaningful work. A 
vocation is not a job. It is an ongoing transformative relation- 

The participants in the Aquarian Conspiracy questionnaire 
represented nearly every vocational field: education, psychol- 
ogy, medicine, business, publishing, television, research, gov- 
ernment, law, dentistry, the clergy, anthropology, sociology, 
nursing, the arts, theater, music, the military, political science, 
economics. There were a few whom a census taker might have 
considered unemployed: retired persons, housewives, inde- 
pendently wealthy persons — all leading busy lives, pursuing 
vocations that defy easy description. 

In many instances, the individuals defined themselves un- 
conventionally, often in terms of how they actually function, 
rather than the narrow specialty in which they were trained. A 
physician described herself as a teacher, a teacher as a futurist. 

In a gentle prod toward helping others transform work 
and wealth, some Aquarian Conspirators actively engage in a 
kind of institutional rehabilitation — counseling corporations, 
smoothing the way for new experiments, new jobs, new pro- 
ducts; making professional assessments of coming change. 
Others are models of change, having invented or transformed 
their own livelihoods. For them Right Livelihood is, more than 
a Buddhist ideal, a component of mental health. 

Some of the sharpest internal conflict reported in the survey 
was in the struggle to reconcile the old work with the new 
perspective. During what we have termed the entry-point 
stage of the transformative process, the new ideas do not seem 
to threaten work and relationships. During the second stage, 
exploration, there is the uneasy hope that this new interest will 
be no more than an intensive avocation. By the third stage, 
integration, it becomes apparent that the transformative pro- 
cess can't be compartmentalized. As one businessman said: 

344 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

It will impinge on your work, or your priorities change. 
The new consciousness affects the way you function in 
your job. It usurps every waking moment. You look at the 
world through a different grid, with different eyes. 

It's easy for the work to become less important. It's hard 
to keep making widgets after you've seen the sun. If your 
job can expand with your vision, you're lucky. 

At this critical juncture, the discoveries that accompany 
transformation are like a compass. The sense of vocation, of 
having discovered a meaningful direction, strengthens the re- 
solve to bring work in alignment with belief, head with heart. 
The new respect for intuition, tacit knowing, encourages risk 
taking. Security, in the conventional sense, is an illusion. Suc- 
cess itself is redefined. A businessman-conspirator said: 

I used to define myself in terms of specific accom- 
plishments. Success might be an A in school — later it was 
business deals. Now success has to do with living my life 
in harmony with the universe. It's a question of context 
and content. You can see individual events, "successes" 
and "failures," as content. But in the context of life there 
isn't winning or losing — only the process. 

When you experience life as broader, richer, more com- 
plex, the events manifest differently. 

Conventional goals of success are like a blueprint drawn up 
by an architect who does not yet know the terrain, who has 
outlined a structure too rigid for nature. Vocation has more the 
quality of an inner summons to move in a particular direction, 
feeling one's way, or of a vision, a glimpse of the future that is 
more preview than plan. A vision can be realized in many 
ways ... a goal, in only one . The transformative process en- 
ables us to be the artists and scientists of our lives, creating and 
discovering as we go. There is the awe and excitement of 
cooperating with the life process, of becoming more sensitive to 
its clues, nuances, promises. 

The clearer sense of self transcends job categories and roles. 
You are not primarily your job — carpenter, computer pro- 
grammer, nurse, lawyer. When the respondents to the ques- 
tionnaire were asked whether or not they regularly read litera- 
ture "outside your field," many replied that they considered 
everything to be in their field. 

The wholeness experienced through the transformative pro- 
cess says that there doesn't have to be a break between work 

Values and Vocation 345 

and pleasure, between convictions and career, between per- 
sonal ethics and “business is business." Fragmentation be- 
comes increasingly intolerable to the person moving toward 
greater awareness. As the anesthesia wears off, one feels the 
tearing of flesh and spirit. And it becomes hard to ignore the 
context of one's work. Products and services don't exist in a 
vacuum, after all. They reverberate through a whole system. 

The experience of greater connectedness, of unity with others, 
generates new ways of thinking about problems: joblessness, 
forced retirement, poverty, fixed incomes, makework, welfare 
cheating, exploitation. A policy analyst said, “If we think we 
are a large family, rather than a large factory, we will deal with 
these problems differently." 

The growing network of support — the Aquarian Conspiracy 
itself — encourages the individual in the lonely enterprise of 
changing jobs, starting a business, changing the practice of a 
profession, revitalizing institutions. It is a do-it-yourself revo- 
lution, but not do-it-by -yourself. For example, friends in 
Washington, D.C., started a "go-for-it-group" to encourage 
each other in their vocational goals. They counseled, inspired, 
and prodded each other, ruthlessly pointing out the rationali- 
zations and delaying tactics each was using to postpone the risk 
of a new step. Within a year, several had begun to realize their 
dreams. A librarian had started her own acting company, an 
attorney had opened a center for the study of psychology in 
law, another member turned her farm into an artists' colony, 
and a bureaucrat resigned his job to go into business with 

New attitudes change the very experience of daily work. 
Work becomes a ritual, a game, a discipline, an adventure, 
learning, even an art, as our perceptions change. The stress of 
tedium and the stress of the unknown, the two causes of 
work-related suffering, are transformed. A more fluent quality 
of attention allows us to move through tasks that once seemed 
repetitious or distasteful. We make fewer judgments about 
what we're doing ("I hate this," "I like this"). Boredom di- 
minishes, just as pain abates when we drop our futile resis- 
tance to it. 

When the ego is no longer running the show, we make fewer 
value judgments about the status of the job at hand. We see 
that meaning can be discovered and expressed in any human 
service: cleaning, teaching, gardening, carpentry, selling, car- 
ing for children, driving a taxi. 

The stress of the unknown is transformed by an attitude of 

346 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

trust and patience; when we have learned that breaking apart 
and reordering are the nature of things, we are less unsettled 
by the need to change our way of working, to develop a new 
product, to learn a new skill, to reorganize a task or even a 
company. The need to innovate becomes a challenge, not a 

Carla Needleman, writing of her experience as a craftsman, 
described this paradox, the goal that betrays the process: 

The attitude of the achiever is so fixed in us that we can 
scarcely envision a different way of our lives. . . . The fact of 
our lives is uncertainty, and we crave certainty. The fact of 
our lives is change, movement: We long to ''arrive.'' 

... I had come to realize that the solidly entrenched at- 
titude toward results — "success” — poisoned all my efforts, 
and that I could not change it. I wanted to make beautiful 
pottery, and that desire, which is a kind of avarice, pre- 
vented me. 

The need for success is a constrictive force that bars me 
from immediate participation in the moment as it appears, 
that prevents the all-important conversation with the ma- 
terial of the craft, prevents openness of relationship, pre- 
vents a kind of quickness of response much swifter than 
the cautions of the mind. The need for success distorts 

A new understanding of success and failure shifts the em- 
phasis in work from the product — "getting there" — to the pro- 
cess itself. Focusing on the goal is a kind of artificial certainty 
that distracts us from the possibilities inherent in our work. To 
work creatively and meaningfully, we have to be alert to the 
moment, willing to change our plans as events show us new 
possibilities. We need to risk, cooperate with new develop- 
ments, reconcile conflicts. 


Work also becomes a medium through which the individual 
can express the vision of the Aquarian Conspiracy. A New 
England professor said, "One of my joys in life is passing along 
the word of the coming transformation to students hearing it 
for the first time." Composer Harry Chapin said, "After a 
while, you've got to find a way to plug in. Most of us lack 

Values and Vocation 347 

perspective on our own lives. I try to write about that in my 
music — ordinary people going through extraordinary moments 
in their lives." 

Paolo Soleri, who has attempted through his Arcosanti ar- 
chitecture to "build a bridge between matter and spirit," traces 
his inspiration to Teilhard. "I became very excited about a book 
of his I found in the late sixties. I realized that in a very clumsy 
way, I was translating what he was saying into environmental 
terms. Eventually I developed my model, which is probably 
parallel to his." 

There are lawyers trying to find less adversarial ways to prac- 
tice their profession, who see a new role for the law as 
mediator. A 1978 Columbia University seminar on humanistic 
law for deans of law schools looked at the implications of the 
new paradigm, especially its emphasis on cooperation and 

Calvin Swank, an assistant professor of criminal justice at the 
University of Alabama, predicted that even police departments 
will be affected "as more and more people become absorbed in 
their own growth and potential." "Self-actualized cops" will 
question the usual conformity to authority. They will trust their 
own judgment, based on experience and intuition, and police 
departments will be unable to cling to their antiquated ways in 
the face of changing social values. 

In many ways the military, with its guaranteed financial 
base, has more opportunity to fund innovation than any other 
institution. Jim Channon, a lieutenant colonel in the army's 
public affairs office in Los Angeles, created a hypothetical 
"First Earth Battalion," a futurist vision of what a transformed 
military might be like. The soldiers of the First Earth Battalion 
seek nondestructive methods of conflict resolution. Their first 
loyalty is to the planet. After Channon introduced the notion at 
an army think tank in Virginia he was inundated with requests 
for more information. He created a packet of material and a 
T-shirt decal to send out in response to calls from army person- 
nel all over the country. The army's Task Force Delta au- 
thorized him to prepare a multimedia presentation on the First 
Earth Battalion, an idea that seems to generate the response 
William James called "the moral equivalent of war," a sense of 
purpose as urgent as the confrontation of danger but without 

Task Force Delta itself, the army's tool for innovation and 
transition, includes systems theorists, semanticists, and spe- 
cialists in personal growth and the psychology of stress; the 

348 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

structure of the organization is circular rather than the conven- 
tional pyramid of a hierarchy. 

The constellation of transformative values — wholeness, flow, 
community — can give meaning to many different kinds of 
work. And transformation also changes work relationships: be- 
tween worker and manager, worker and product, worker and 


“It would seem," Tocqueville observed in the mid-nineteenth 
century, “as if rulers of our time sought only to use men in 
order to make things great; I wish that they would try a little 
more to make great men; that they would set less value on the 
work and more upon the workman; that they would never 
forget that a nation cannot be strong when everyone belonging 
to it is individually weak." 

In the same way that a gifted teacher releases capacities in 
the learner, a gifted manager helps workers realize potential 
skills, enterprise, creativity. The transformative manager en- 
courages self- management in others. 

We are entering a period of real change in work relation- 
ships. A growing number of managers prefer to be catalysts 
rather than just power wielders, and an emergent breed of 
autonomous employees gives service but not subservience. 
This shift is causing not a little discomfort to those who are not 
changing. Some employees would rather be passive than take 
on new responsibilities or create their own work plans, which 
can frustrate the manager who is no longer a traditional boss. 
One executive commented that his own changes caused him to 
want not only a new set of friends but a new set of co-workers. 
On the other hand, autonomy in employees has proven stress- 
ful to many traditional managers. 

A report from the University of Michigan Institute for Social 
Research warned that traditional management styles will have 
to give way. Recognizing the growing autonomy of employees, 
American Telephone and Telegraph arranged weekend re- 
training sessions for seventeen hundred managers in 1977 and 

The traits of highly successful managers are strikingly similar 
to the traits of good teachers discussed in Chapter 9. One study 
of sixteen thousand managers found success associated with a 
trusting attitude, concern for the personal fulfillment of 

Values and Vocation 349 

employees, a lack of ego, willingness to listen to subordinates, 
risk-taking, innovation, high expectations, collaboration, and 
the ability to integrate ideas. IBM, hoping to uncover the traits 
of chief executive officers (CEOs) in order to design a test to 
screen management talent, found no overall pattern but a con- 
stellation of attitudes about change. CEOs saw systems as open 
rather than closed, change as organic rather than mechanical. 
They focused on process more than on goals. And they were 

A McGill University report described successful managers as 
unusually open to the complex and mysterious, interested in 
“soft” and speculative information (facial expression, tone of 
voice, gestures, hunches, intuitions). Another study portrayed 
the successful manager as “scanning the environment, per- 
ceiving, brainstorming, intuiting, daydreaming." Execu- 
tives seemed to call more often than most people on right- 
hemisphere processes, judging from an EEG study, whereas 
corporate analysts relied on left-brain strategies, such as qual- 

Ron Medved of the Pacific Institute, a Seattle organization 
that stages personal development seminars for large institu- 
tions, envisioned the coming change: 

The New American Working Machine is founded on the 
philosophy of working smarter, not harder — from the bot- 
tom up. (The Japanese have taught us that those who do 
the work seem to know more about how to do it than 
anyone else.) There will be a fresh emphasis on innovation 
and streamlining, for there is no security in our current 
levels of national productivity. 

The New American Working Machine will enjoy a dif- 
ferent organizational structure. Bureaucratic dinosaurs 
with level upon level of decision-making won't survive the 
competition from new-form management styles both here 
and abroad. . . . 

New American Managers will be recognizable not be- 
cause they have all the right answers but because they 
know how to ask the right questions. . . . 

The New American Worker seems to be in for the 
biggest change of all ... a new vision of himself or herself. 

The New American Working Machine looks different 
than many of the worlds you and I work in. While it prom- 
ises a better world, it challenges us to do a whole lot of 
growing and changing to get there In a very real way. 

350 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

the New American Working Machine is banking on the 

sleeping genius in every one of us. 

"Sleeping genius," human potential — whatever term they 
use, new management theorists are interested in the latent 
capacities that can unfold, given motivation. For instance, 
workers in the Lucas Aerospace plants in England, threatened 
in 1974 with the consolidation of their seventeen factories, or- 
ganized to brainstorm ideas for socially useful products their 
employer could manufacture. They inventoried their skills, ev- 
erything from engineering to manual labor, and assessed the 
company's equipment. Then they issued a questionnaire to the 
entire work force asking, "What do you think you should be 
making?" One hundred and fifty viable ideas were translated 
into designs, specifications, and analyses. Although Lucas's 
management had been slow to take on the new products, by 
1979 the company had manufactured some prototypes and was 
working with the employee group. 

The workers were nominated for the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize 
by international peace groups and by several members of the 
Swedish parliament in recognition of their grass-roots effort to 
convert military into nonmilitary production. 

C. Jackson Grayson of the American Productivity Center in 
Houston, whose research is supported by two hundred of the 
nation's top corporations, blames the bureaucratic structure of 
business for suppressing the desire and abilities of individuals 
to feel they contribute. Contrary to what's being said, "People 
haven't lost the work ethic," he said. 

There is a definite trend toward decentralizing power in 
companies — dismantling the pyramid, as one consultant„.put it. 
According to Frank Ruck, who became vice-president of 
Chicago Title and Trust, "Making organizational changes in 
work can make people happier, as well as enhancing produc- 
tivity — a double payoff." 

Increasingly, professional management theorists are urging 
the use of flexible structures, work arrangements that shape 
themselves to human needs, that tap latent potential. The need 
for drastic action is evident in the slowdown of American pro- 
ductivity. Despite accelerated technology, the output per 
man-hour of work in the United States increased only 21 per- 
cent between 1970 and 1977. That compared to 41 percent in 
West Germany, 42 percent in France, 41 percent in Japan, 38 
percent in Italy. 

"Job enrichment" and "humanizing the workplace" were in- 
tegrated into management philosophy in many companies in 

Values and Vocation 351 

recent years. Semi-autonomous work teams were formed. 
Higher pay was awarded on the basis of proficiency tests, not 
job description. Signed time sheets replaced time clocks, those 
infernal symbols of dehumanization and lack of trust. Assem- 
bly lines were broken into smaller components. Some com- 
panies adapted consensual management ideas from Japan, 
Norway, and Sweden. By 1976 more than a thousand United 
States companies and government agencies were experiment- 
ing with "flex-time/' a procedure that allows employees to 
choose their work schedule within certain limits, built around a 
core period: 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., for instance, or 11:00 a.m. to 
7:00 p.m. 

The American Council of Life Insurance trend-analysis pro- 
gram reported in 1979 on "The Changing Nature of Work": a 
new breed of employee seeking work consistent with personal 
values; greater flexibility of hours and type of work; more 
cooperation between management and employees; non- 
hierarchical organizational structures; a work environment in- 
creasingly compatible with physical and mental health. 

A Labor Day advertisement by the Communications Workers 
of America emphasized the concern for meaningful work: 

This Labor Day finds masses of American workers search- 
ing for the self-esteem that comes with an interesting, chal- 
lenging, and productive job. A national public opinion 
firm has been polling young people for several years. They 
find that regardless of sex, race, or type of employment, 
people under thirty want jobs that are meaningful and 
offer a chance for personal growth. . . . [They are] seeking 
improvement in what is broadly called "the quality of 


These external changes have been fruitful, but they are not 
enough. Now those concerned about productivity and people 
have taken the inner route, turning to methods designed for 
self-actualization. Personal development has become the com- 
plement to job enrichment and a humane workplace. And, as 
one management trainer observed, "We turned to these tech- 
niques for pragmatic reasons, and a lot of us got hooked." 

Werner Erhard once used the term "high intention" to de- 
scribe an attitude that contributes to the marked superiority of 
some workers in any organization: 

352 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

People who have no intention just go through the motions. 
They make mistakes, they can't handle things, nothing 
around them works, they don't do things completely, they 
complain all the time. What gives people superiority at a 
task is true intention. That makes you attuned to every- 
thing. You handle everything, and your mind doesn't give 
you reasons for not noticing and not handling things. I 
don't enjoy people who have low intention. I don't enjoy 

playing for low stakes I want the person with whom I 

am interacting to have something at stake. 

High intention cannot coexist with a low self-image. Only 
those who are awake, connected, and motivated can add to the 
synergy of an organization. Everyone else adds to entropy, 
randomness. To achieve major changes in worker attitudes, 
management is turning increasingly to training techniques 
drawn from consciousness research. 

Trainers are now talking about cultural trance, the fear of 
transformation, alternative realities, paradigm shifts, insights, 
the importance of individuals learning to "see through new 
eyes." A two-part article in Training, a professional journal, 
said, "As trainers we cannot afford to ignore what is happening 
in the human-potential movement." It quoted a bank executive 
on the awakening of his staff through personal-growth semi- 
nars: "For my money, these soul-searchers are our future." 

Personal-growth training doesn't and shouldn't promise 
more widgets per hour, fewer grievances, less overtime, or 
more sales — "but then neither does your liability insurance." 
Mostly people will begin to feel better about who they are and 
what they're doing about their lives. "There is no accounting 
entry headed 'number of people who feel good about them- 
selves.' But perhaps, just perhaps, that's an outcome much too 
big and important for inclusion on a mere profit and loss state- 

Many companies have undertaken stress-reduction training 
programs for their employees, biofeedback training, programs 
to enhance creativity. Some have set aside quiet sites for rest 
and meditation. Indeed, the health aspects of the transforma- 
tive technologies are a major rationale for corporate support. A 
fully functioning employee with a healthy self-image is money 
in the bank — at any rate, that was the original rationale, but 
now many companies seem to consider the development of 
employee potential as part of their social responsibility. 

General Electric has sponsored conferences on right- and 
left-brain research relevant to creativity. Menninger Founda- 

Values and Vocation 353 

tion seminars on "The Other Self" have been staged for many 
corporate groups. "Companies are caught in a 'revolution of 
rising expectations' of what it takes to be fully human," said 
Layne Longfellow of Menninger. "Somebody raised the ante. 
We face an aspiration gap between what we are and what we're 
beginning to consider normal." 

Intuition need not be the exclusive province of executives. 
Jay Mendell, a business futurist, said in Planning Review. Mil- 
lions of workers, having discovered new capacities through the 
psychotechnologies, are eager to develop their intuition and 
creativity on the job. 

Much as the new paradigm of education sees in all of us 
the creative potential we once attributed only to geniuses, 
management trainers are beginning to look at all employees 
as potential self-managers who can begin to think like en- 


In the communication to members of the Linkage network in 
the summer of 1979, Robert Theobald cited the many letters 
from those longing to move more strongly toward a new soci- 
ety. He asked: 

What is holding us back in Linkage and throughout the 
society? I believe we are afraid of recognizing how funda- 
mentally our lives would have to be changed if we should 
choose to work out of this vision. We are caught in old 
models, and most of us owe our survival to the fact that we 
straddle the "functioning" present world and the new 
universe which we should like to bring into existence. 

The paradox is that the new world promises to be both 
personally and professionally more rewarding if we would 
take the leap of faith to embrace it. 

For many, entrepreneurship — being in business for oneself — 
is a natural sequel to the transformative process. Armed with a 
greater sense of self and vocation, a new willingness to risk 
(and be poor for a time), emotional support from the network, a 
sturdier trust in their own creativity and will, they make their 
own work. These new enterprises are characterized by the 
Buddhist ideal of Right Livelihood: work that serves society 
and does not harm the environment. 

Briarpatch, a Bay Area network of three hundred or so 

354 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

businesses, artists, and nonprofit organizations, is a mutual- 
help medium for entrepreneurs "trying to reveal and uncover 
principles that can help us reconnect with our community and 
society rather than exploit them." Dick Raymond, Briarpatch 
founder, described the stress of translating one's new philoso- 
phy into practice: 

Crossing this river is difficult: it means leaving behind 

some of your old ideas about work and jobs Most of us 

(including myself) try to tiptoe around the pain, but it's 
important to talk about some of the agonies one is apt to 
confront. We're not talking about simply trading one job 
for another, or getting from one company into a more suit- 
able one. When you start abandoning your old beliefs or 
values, some very primal circuits get ignited. . . . You may 
be stuck on the threshold for two or three years. Before 
moving on, you have to clear away all your cherished be- 

The people I know who have successfully made this 
transition are the most joyful, the most outgoing, the most 
well-rewarded people I know. As I meet more every day, 
their existence sustains my sanity. 

Entrepreneurship fills many of the needs of transformation. 
Richard Gunther, a successful real-estate developer, described 
to a group of would-be entrepreneurs the confluence of work 
and enjoyment, socially constructive aims pursued in fellow- 
ship with congenial people, a sense of "conscious" and creative 

Training programs have been developed to prepare those 
setting out on their own. Based in part on his growing interest 
in the phenomenon and his weekend School for Entrepre- 
neurs, Bob Schwartz, founder of Tarrytown (New York) Execu- 
tive House, has characterized the new breed as catalysts who 
may transform the marketplace: 

The emerging entrepreneur is a more truly thoughtful per- 
son who is changing products and services to fill the needs 
of a more thoughtful and caring audience than the world 
has previously known. . . . This is what the young are say- 
ing: Don't make me an adjunct to the process; make me 
inherent in it. 

The new reality is that products are not going to be a 

Values and Vocation 355 

major part of the American scene. Production is rapidly 
moving downhill as a factor in the American economy, and 
services are moving in. 

Entrepreneurs, Schwartz said, are "the poets and packagers of 
new ideas, both visualizers and actualizes." Historically, in a 
time of cultural change, a new type of entrepreneur emerges to 
embody the vision with services and products. 

He pointed to the burgeoning demand for human- 
development courses as an example of service needs little 
known a decade ago. The new entrepreneurs have moved from 
a manipulative I-it to an I-Thou philosophy, relating to both 
consumer and product in immediate, personal ways. They and 
their customers "are the most potent revolutionary force that 
America furnishes to the world. The entrepreneur is the new 
non-violent Change Agent." 

The Renascence Project in Kansas City, a network of entre- 
preneurs, demonstrated that alternatives can be both cost effec- 
tive and profitable. Among its activities: renovation of prop- 
erties at a key Kansas City location into an eight-million dollar 
business complex, the establishment of learning networks, an 
educational program for the "whole person," a self-supporting 
alternative high school, restoration of a historic dance hall, res- 
toration of a large house by a partnership of residents, and 
development of a master plan for Kansas City calling for block- 
by-block renovation of neighborhoods along an eleven-mile 
pedestrian mall. 

In an article titled "The Coming Entrepreneurial Revolu- 
tion," Norman McRae, the editor of the British publication The 
Economist, suggested that the creeping giantism in American 
industry has opened the door for the emergence of entre- 
preneurship patterns even within large industry. Small en- 
claves in big companies may be run by these "intrapreneurs." 
The article also predicted that big-business corporations, in 
their present form, may disappear by the year 2010. 

The new entrepreneurs refuse to separate good-for-business 
from good-for-people. Mo Siegel, co-founder of the Celestial 
Tea Company in Boulder, Colorado, has articulated this view 
for his two hundred and thirty employees: "All department 
leaders will be held accountable for their people development 
as well as business results." Achievement, Siegel said, is just a 
by-product of living an ideal. "In this age of transition, we're 
learning to retain the good aspects of the culture while discard- 
ing negative ones." 

356 The Aquarian Conspiracy 


The problem with technology, Robert Pirsig observed in Zen 
and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, is its noncoalescence be- 
tween reason and feeling. Technology has not been connected 
with matters of the spirit and of the heart, "and so it does blind, 
ugly things quite by accident and gets hated for that." 

In the emergent paradigm technology is not seen as negative, 
just abused and in need of rehumanization. Our technology 
promised us power but it became our master in too many areas 
of our lives. Little wonder many of the "new" political and 
economic perspectives look to the past in their preference for 
decentralization, their sensitivity to natural harmonies and 
concern for stewardship of the land, their desire for "creative 
simplicity," spiritual and cultural enrichment, the celebration 
of nonmaterial values. 

A society's consciousness should be the context for its work 
and consumption; its technology, only the content: tools that 
create products and services the people value. E. F. Schu- 
macher's original title for the book that became famous as 
Small Is Beautiful was Economics As If People Mattered. He particu- 
larly deplored the effects of big, unconscious applications of 
technology: centralization, urbanization, the depletion of re- 
sources, 6 the dehumanization of workers. Particularly in de- 
veloping countries, turbines, dams, and earth-moving 
machines can disrupt social patterns to the detriment of both 
environment and people. Schumacher's Radical-Center re- 
sponse to applied science gone berserk was what he called 
"appropriate technology." 

"Intermediate" or appropriate technology offers a third way: 
tools more advanced than a primitive shovel but more practical 
and human-scaled than a bulldozer. With superior but man- 
ageable tools people can improve their lot without going to 
urban factories. 

"Before we choose our tools and techniques," said an edito- 
rial in Rain: The Journal of Appropriate Technology, "we must 
choose our dreams and values, for some technologies serve 
them, while others make them unobtainable." 

Schumacher's ideas have had a worldwide influence. An ar- 
ticle on appropriate technology in Foreign Affairs in late 1977 

6 The United States, with 6 percent of the world's population, consumes more 
than 30 percent of its energy resources. 

Values and Vocation 357 

resulted in the biggest reprint request in that publication's 

Many countries and some states have set up offices of appro- 
priate technology. The United Nations is establishing a global 
network of institutions to further the idea. Appropriate tech- 
nology has been endorsed by the International Labor Organiza- 
tion, the World Bank, the president of the Philippines, the Ford 
and Rockefeller Foundations. In the two years preceding his 
death Schumacher was the guest and advisor of presidents, 
prime ministers, and kings. 

Schumacher's economic philosophy reflected intense spiri- 
tual values he discussed more fully in the posthumously pub- 
lished Guide for the Perplexed. Spiritual values, indeed, are at the 
base of much of the ecological concern in our time, a quicken- 
ing sense of the whole earth, respect for the matrix of our 
evolution, the nature in which we are embedded. Fittingly, 
Lao-tse is quoted in the brochure of California's Office of 
Appropriate Technology: "These are my treasures. Guard 
them well." 


Environmental concerns have a growing impact on lifestyle and 
consumption. A study conducted in the state of Washington in 
1976, published in 1978, polled householders drawn randomly 
from the telephone directories of every community. The re- 
searchers found evidence of surprising adherence to "a new 
environmental paradigm." 

A majority of those polled expressed concern about the abuse 
of the environment and uncontrolled population growth. They 
saw earth as a spaceship with limited room and resources. 
They favored a steady-state economy with control of industrial 
growth. They opposed the idea of human dominance over na- 
ture. In every particular, the general public supported the 
views of environmentalists in their state. 

Behavior is not necessarily consistent with beliefs, the re- 
searchers noted, and conceded that many of the respondents 
might resist personal sacrifice. 

. . . We nonetheless must stress what we believe to be the 
rather remarkable nature of our results. When we consider 
that just a few short years ago, concepts such as "limits to 
growth" and "spaceship earth" were virtually unheard of. 

358 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

the degree to which they have gained acceptance among 
the public is extremely surprising. This acceptance is all the 
more surprising when one realizes how dramatically the 
new environmental paradigm departs from our society's 
traditional worldview. . . . Indeed, in a society which has 
always taken abundance, growth, progress, etc., for 
granted, the rise of the new paradigm represents a rev- 
olutionary occurrence . . . we cannot help but be impressed 
by its rapid ascendance. 

The shift to an environmental view involves vastly more than 
a concern for redwoods. Nowhere is the connectedness of all 
life more evident than in our awakened ecological conscience. 
Care of the planet joins economic, legal, political, spiritual, 
aesthetic, and medical issues. It extends to our purchases, 
choice of family size, recreation. The youngest school child is 
aware of the controversies — military defoliation, nuclear 
power, carcinogens, supersonic transports, dams flooding In- 
dian burial grounds, population growth, propellant gases that 
may destroy the ozone layer. The young fear the slow death of 
Earth as a previous generation feared the atomic bomb. 

Ecotopia, a novel by Ernest Callenbach, launched something 
of a cult, especially in the western United States. Originally 
issued by a small press, the book became an underground 
best-seller and was republished as a mass-market paperback in 
1978. Ecotopia is a fictional new country created by the seces- 
sion of Washington, western Oregon, and Northern California. 
Ecotopians employ alternative technology and are hypercon- 
scious of environmental issues. 

Ecotopia enthusiasts have designed a flag, created a mag- 
azine, named schools and streets after the book, and even cele- 
brated Ecotopia Day in Eugene, Oregon. Callenbach was in- 
vited to Sacramento to confer with the California governor and 
his advisers. However far-fetched the premise of a new 
country — a new beginning — the book's mass appeal tells us 

Sim Van der Ryn, first director of California's Office of Ap- 
propriate Technology and former state architect, insists that 
Ecotopian communities are possible right now, at least "the 
construction of some modest first examples." He urged en- 
lightened entrepreneurs and politicians to commit themselves 
to an idea that could bring credit to business and government 
alike. "The seeds of ecological design are beginning to sprout, 
and many of the hardware components to create an ecologically 

Values and Vocation 359 

stable urban community have already been developed and are 
working. What we have yet to do is bring together all the 
threads and weave them into a single coherent design for a new 

A sound environmental approach will revitalize urban de- 
sign, retaining the best of the high-technology culture "while 
renewing people's sense of place." It will translate the old 
linear understanding into systems thinking, an awareness of 
the complex interactions of people and environmental ele- 

Another urbanologist called this "the age of recovery" for 
many American cities; a time of new understanding of urban 
amenities, a sense of historic continuity, the need for energy 
efficiency, and new insights on how people want to live, in- 
cluding more humanly scaled architecture. "We have begun to 
settle down, finally, to seek a sense of place." 

Well-known architects surveyed in 1979 described a new 
paradigm of urban design: more human, with a richer mix of 
housing and community facilities, places to walk, heightened 
concern about public transportation, the creation of festive 
malls and squares, the planting of more trees, a sense of "the 
commons." An emergent technology will draw increasingly 
on wind, sun, tidal forces, natural lighting, and natural ven- 

We may be on our way to regaining the intimate connection 
and awareness of our place in nature. This neo- medieval trend 
is evident in another phenomenon: environments of cele- 
bration — fairs, expositions, and festivals. In medieval Europe 
fairs were set up at crossroads, in neutral territory, so that 
warring people could drop their hostilities long enough to bar- 
ter, juggle, mime, eat, drink, make music. They were one in 
celebration — playful, curious, unself- conscious. We are recre- 
ating spontaneous community in our tens of thousands of art 
and craft exhibits, music festivals, environmental and new- 
age "expos," and period celebrations like Renaissance fairs, 
medieval games, Dickensian bazaars. 

People are improvising new ways to observe old holidays, 
like a July Fourth "Interdependence Day" celebrated by the 
Friends Meeting of Palo Alto, California. After sharing food, 
music, crafts, and games, they concluded by lighting candles 
and singing "Let There Be Peace on Earth." One participant 
said, "Celebrations like this come from ourselves. They need 
not be confined to traditional holidays. They can acknowledge 
other meaningful events in our lives What if we really gave 

360 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

ourselves the opportunity to explore our imaginations — if we 
let go of prefabricated forms of creativity?" 


Here and there are cheerful insurrections by citizens of the new 
commonwealth, early drafts of its constitutions, its declaration 
of interdependence. If you know what to look for, you can 
detect the architecture of invisible cathedrals and theaters and 
lending libraries, universities without walls, the society whose 
individuals are its institutions and whose awakening sense of 
fraternity is its highest law. 

The true source of wealth, Eugen Loebl concluded while 
brooding about economics during his fifteen years as a political 
prisoner in Czechoslovakia, is not its productivity, its Gross 
National Product, its tangible assets. Creative intelligence is the 
wealth of a modern society. "If we see gain as a function of 
man's ability to think, and if we recognize the importance of 
the intellectual level on which the economy is based, then our 
prime interest will be oriented toward the development of 
this level. . . . We can change our reality toward the goals we 

On his historic visit to the United States, Tocqueville sailed 
down the Ohio River. On one hand was Ohio, a free state; on 
the other Kentucky, a slave state. On the Ohio side of the river 
he observed industrious activity, rich harvests, handsome 
homes. The Ohioan could enter any path fortune might open to 
him. He might become a sailor, a pioneer, an artisan, a laborer. 
On the Kentucky side Tocqueville saw only indolence. Not 
only were the slaves half-hearted in their labors, but the mas- 
ters themselves were enslaved. They could not work their own 
land because that would demean their status. A few crossed 
over to Ohio to work, but most turned for excitement to "the 
passionate love of field sports and military exercises . . . violent 
bodily exertion, the use of arms " 

We have passed into other cultural ages, each with its own 
forms of economic and psychological enslavement. For too 
long, like the Kentucky slaveholders, we have turned our best 
energies toward the pursuit of secondary excitement, hoping to 
find in such distractions the reward that comes only from voca- 
tion. But we have a choice; now we can emigrate to a freer 
state, finding there new heart, new enterprise, and values that 
match our deepest needs. 




Connection to 
the Source 

Behind the night . . . somewhere afar 
Some white tremendous daybreak. 


In its early stages, transformation may seem easy, 
even fun, not at all stressful or threatening. We may 
enjoy an intensified sense of connection, vocation, 
freedom, peace. We use the process as we might use a 
tape recorder. We visit altered states of awareness as we would 
drop into a health club for the Jacuzzi. Biofeedback cures our 
headaches, meditation eases tension. An imagery technique 
dissolves a learning block. 

But all the transformative technologies also train our attention. 
Gradually there is a sense that we have been betraying some 
sort of harmonious inner universe by our attitudes, behavior, 
and beliefs. A realm of exquisite order, intelligence, and crea- 
tive potential begins to reveal itself. Meditation is now doing 
us. Reality breaks through into larger, richer spaces. Now it is 
not just a matter of seeing things differently but of seeing dif- 
ferent things. Language fails, symbols fail. This territory is too 


362 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

unlike anything we have known, too paradoxical, a dimension 
we may speak of as deep or high, as helpless as the Square in 
Flatland trying to describe the Third Dimension to his disbeliev- 
ing countrymen. “One can only grasp it by experiencing," said 
Master Hakuin, a Zen sage, “as one feels for oneself cold and 
hot by drinking water. It is to melt all space in a wink and to 
look through all time, from past to future, in one thought." 

Consciousness is not a tool . It is our being, the context of our 
lives — of life itself. Expanding consciousness is the riskiest en- 
terprise on earth. We endanger the status quo. We endanger 
our comfort. And if we do not have the nerve to resolve the 
ensuing conflicts, we endanger our sanity. We may have been 
uncomfortable at earlier points in the transformative process, 
as when we took responsibility for our health, but this is much 
bigger: the transformation of the transformative process itself. 

In Chapter 6, we explored scientific discoveries about the 
underlying unity of nature, the role of consciousness in con- 
structing the world of appearances, the brain as an interpreter 
of patterns emerging from a primary reality, the transcendence 
of time and space, the thrust of evolution, the reordering of 
living systems at levels of ever greater intricacy and coherence. 

Spiritual or mystical experience, the subject of this chapter, is 
the mirror image of science — a direct perception of nature's 
unity, the inside of the mysteries that science tries valiantly to 
know from the outside. This way of understanding predates 
science by thousands of years. Long before humankind had 
tools like quantum logic to describe events that ordinary reason 
could not grasp, individuals moved into the realm of paradox 
through a shift in consciousness. And there they know that 
what cannot be is . Millions living today have experienced tran- 
scendent aspects of reality and have incorporated this knowl- 
edge into their lives. 

A mystical experience, however brief, is validating for those 
attracted to the spiritual search. The mind now knows what the 
heart had only hoped for. But the same experience can be deep- 
ly distressing to one unprepared for it, who must then try to fit 
it into an inadequate belief system. 

Inexorably, direct experience of a larger reality demands that 
we change our lives. We can compromise for a time, but even- 
tually we realize that ambivalence is like deciding to recognize 
the law of gravity only sometimes and in certain places. This 
transformation of transformation, with its acceleration of con- 
nections and insights, can be a frightening period. Eventually, 
in stages, there is action. We must make our lives congruent 

Spiritual Adventure 363 

with our consciousness. "A condition of utmost simplicity/' 
said T. S. Eliot, "costing not less than everything." 

By radically altering one's values and perceptions of the 
world, mystical experience tends to create its own culture, one 
with wide membership and invisible borders. This parallel cul- 
ture seems to threaten the status quo; as Alexander Solzhenit- 
syn said. Western society is outraged if an individual gives his 
soul as much daily attention as his grooming. The statements 
and behavior of those in the emergent culture are judged by a 
belief system as irrelevant to their experience as the warnings 
of the Flat Earthers were to Columbus. Critics call them narcis- 
sistic, not knowing the thoughtful nature of their inward 
search; self-annihilating, not knowing the spaciousness of 
the Self they join; elitist, not knowing how desperately they 
want to share what they have seen; irrational, not realizing 
how much further their new worldview goes toward resolving 
problems, how much more coherent it is with everyday 


The spiritual quest begins, for most people, as a search for 
meaning. At first this may be only a restless desire for some- 
thing more. The prescient Tocqueville remarked on the coexis- 
tence in America of a strong religious spirit and material ambi- 
tion. But perhaps, he said, this was a precarious balance. "If 
ever the faculties of the great majority of mankind were exclu- 
sively bent upon the pursuit of material objects, it might be 
anticipated that an amazing reaction would take place in the 
souls of some. I should be surprised if mysticism did not soon 
make some advance among a people solely engaged in promot- 
ing its own worldly welfare." 

Indeed, our vigorous appetite for the material has led us to 
satiation. Zbigniew Brzezinski, chairman of the United States 
Security Council, spoke of an "increasing yearning for some- 
thing spiritual" in advanced Western societies where mate- 
rialism has proven unsatisfying. People are discovering, he 
said, that 5 percent per annum more goods is not the definition 
of happiness. 

Traditional religion, he conceded, does not provide a substi- 

This is why there is a search for personal religion, for direct 

364 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

connection with the spiritual. . . . Ultimately, every human 
being, once he reaches the stage of self-consciousness, 
wants to feel that there is some inner and deeper meaning 
to his existence than just being and consuming, and once 
he begins to feel that way, he wants his social organization 

to correspond to that feeling This is happening on a 

world scale. 

In a public poll conducted by Yankelovich, Skelly, and 
White, 80 percent of the respondents expressed a strong inter- 
est in “an inner search for meaning." In 1975 the National 
Opinion Research Corporation reported that more than 40 per- 
cent of the adults polled believed they had had a genuine mys- 
tical experience. These experiences were characterized by joy, 
peace, a need to contribute to others, the conviction that love is 
at the center of everything, emotional intensity, knowledge 
impossible to articulate, unity with others, and the imminence 
of a new world. A 1974 Roper poll found that 53 percent be- 
lieved in the reality of psi, with stronger belief correlated with 
higher income and education. A 1976 Gallup poll reported that 
12 percent were involved in a mystical discipline. 

A Gallup poll released in February 1978 reported that ten 
million Americans were engaged in some aspect of Eastern 
religion, nine million in spiritual healing. Those involved in 
Eastern religions tended to be younger adults, college- 
educated, living on either of the two coasts, about equally men 
and women. Catholic and Protestant. “Although [they] are not 
as likely to be church-goers . . . they are just as likely to say that 
their religious beliefs are 'very important' in their lives." 

Spiritual experience moved beyond the borders of the estab- 
lishment so quietly that only the poll takers have measured the 
change. Addressing fellow scholars and historians in the field 
of religion, Jacob Needleman remarked ironically in 1977 that 
these ideas and practices are now — “without our prior permis- 
sion, so to speak — entering the real lives of real people, caus- 
ing trouble, having real effects on marriages, careers, politics, 
goals, friendships." 

But the spiritual shift is not readily uncovered by sociological 
methods. It's an individual phenomenon, William McCready of 
National Opinion Research said. “If you try to gauge it by 
membership in groups, you won't see it. Because they aren't 
much for joining, the people involved in this inner search are 
hard to pin down statistically." 

In early 1979 Ram Dass observed that his audiences had 

Spiritual Adventure 365 

changed considerably. "For the most part it's the middle class 
these days, and the ages are broadening incredibly. Where I 
was working with a ten-year age span out of the alternative 
cultures five or six years ago. I'm now seeing a fifteen-year 
span out of the mainstream of society — what used to be called 
straight. Now there are hundreds of thousands for whom spiri- 
tual awakening is a reality. I can go to Omaha, Idaho City, 
Seattle, Buffalo, or Tuscaloosa, and everywhere thousands of 
people are ready to hear. They are growing spiritually in their 
daily lives, without putting on far-out clothes and wearing 
beads around their necks. Their spiritual awakening grows 
from within." 

An Aquarian Conspirator at a famous think tank said, "There 
is a whole new tolerance for the search for transcendence. I'm 
surrounded by colleagues who are going in the same direction, 

who value the same kinds of explorations A person is no 

longer an oddball because he is known to be on a spiritual 
quest. And he's even envied a little, which is quite a change 
over the last fifteen years." 

A Washington lobbyist for an organization promoting inter- 
national peacemaking called the mutual recognition of these 
seekers "the small mysticism": 

It was not sought or wanted but asserted itself in my 
life . . . something was growing, emerging. These little 
events added up; they began to fit together. I began to find 
God in others, then a sense of God in me, then a bit of 
myself in others with a sense of God, then others and 
myself in God — a mysterious and complex set of transac- 
tions. The curious side-effect was that there is recognition 
of this sort of unitarianism among the small mystics. We 
sense each other. 

Even my political work . . . benefited. Small mystics in 
politics quickly "smell" my secret stance, and a certain 
fellowship occurs, scarcely ever explicit but nonetheless 

I do not know yet how common this sort of closet small 
mysticism is, but it seems to me to be easier in the last 
five years or so to confess with some expectations of 

Western psychologists like William James, Carl Jung, Abra- 
ham Maslow, and Roberto Assagioli focused their mature pow- 
ers on trying to understand transcendent needs and the irrep- 

366 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

ressible hunger for meaning. Jung compared the spiritual 
impulse to sexuality in its urgency. 

Although there is reason to believe that we all have an innate 
capacity for mystical experience — direct connection — and al- 
though about half the population reports having had at least 
one spontaneous experience, never before has this capacity 
been explored by people in great numbers. Historically, even in 
those parts of the world where the most sophisticated tech- 
niques were available — India, Tibet, China, Japan — only a tiny 
minority undertook the systematic search for spiritual under- 

Among the millions now engaged in this search, many, if not 
most, were drawn in almost unawares, like the good-natured 
Hobbits drawn into cosmic quests in J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of 
the Rings. Quite innocently they found themselves beyond their 
familiar haunts. Sy Safransky, the editor of a North Carolina 
literary magazine, described his departure from common-sense 

I'm a journalist whose ability to take notes and ask the 
right questions evaporated years ago on a sunny beach in 
Spain, when I suddenly became aware that the whole 
world was alive ... I saw the earth breathe, I felt its 
rhythms, and I discovered a missing part of myself. Find- 
ing corroboration neither in the New York Times or the New 
Republic but only in literature I'd hitherto shunned as reli- 
gious (then an epithet) or plainly bizarre, I began the long, 
slow drift away from the radical mainstream towards 
shores for which I've yet to find a name. 

Pianist Arthur Rubinstein struggled to define what he called 
"this thing in us, a metaphysical power that emanates from 
us." He had often felt it in his concerts, he said, this tangible 
energy reaching out into the audience. "It is something float- 
ing, something unknown that has no place to disappear to." 

In his Nobel prize acceptance speech novelist Saul Bellow 
said, "The sense of our real powers, powers we seem to derive 
from the universe itself, also comes and goes We are reluc- 

tant to talk about this because there is nothing we can prove, 
because our language is inadequate, and because few people 
are willing to risk talking about it. They would have to say, 
'There is a spirit,' and that is taboo." 

The unnamed shores, the power, the spirit — these are the 
subject of this chapter. We will look at the spiritual experience 
in contemporary America, an experience that has little to do 

Spiritual Adventure 367 

with religion as our culture has known it. It also has little to do 
with exotic cults and practices. The grass-roots movement is 
taking place quietly, manifesting itself in ways unique to this 
time and place. Most of its adherents are incognito to those 
looking for conventional symbols of religiousness. 


The emergent spiritual tradition is not new in American his- 
tory, according to Robert Ellwood, a scholar of Oriental reli- 
gions at the University of Southern California. Rather, it is the 
revitalization of a stream “going back as far as Transcenden- 
talism." Adherents prefer direct experience — what Ellwood 
calls “excursion" to an inner world whose vision then infuses 
all of life — to any form of organized religion. 

With its periodic Great Awakenings, the United States has 
always attracted mystics and evangelists. Long before the spiri- 
tual revolution we see now, Eastern and Western mystics influ- 
enced mainstream American thought. Their ideas were daily 
bread to the American Transcendentalists and the "beat gener- 
ation." Yet, as Ellwood pointed out, all these exports are fil- 
tered through the American psyche and experience. Zen, Swe- 
denborgianism. Theosophy, or Vedanta in the United States 
are not what they were in Japan, eighteenth-century England, 
or nineteenth-century India. American adherents may some- 
times use Eastern symbols, but their essential spiritual life is 
better understood through the American lineage of Emerson, 
Thoreau, Whitman, the Shakers, and others. "Down-home 
Zen" is the term Rick Fields used to describe the Zen center in 
the heart of the Wilshire business district of Los Angeles. 

Needleman said Westerners were moving away from the 
form and trappings of Judaism and Christianity, "not because 
they had stopped searching for transcendental answers to the 
fundamental questions of human life but because that search 
has now intensified beyond measure." 1 They were looking to 

'Although the Aquarian Conspirators are by no means representative, being 
both more spiritually involved and more iconoclastic than most, their ques- 
tionnaire responses show a pattern that may be a harbinger of more general 
change. Ninety-five percent had some early religious background, however 
token (55 percent Protestant, 20 percent Jewish, 18 percent Catholic, 2 percent 
other, 5 percent "none"). Only 19 percent consider themselves active in that 
tradition in any way, a percentage that includes several clergy, exclergy, and 

368 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

Eastern traditions to see what they might offer "our threatened 
society and our tormented religions." 

We turn East for completion. Whitman called it "the voyage 

of the mind's return Passage to more than India." Hesse 

spoke of "the eternal strivings of the human spirit toward the 
East, toward Home." The East does not represent a culture or a 
religion so much as the methodology for achieving a larger, 
liberating vision. In that sense, the "East" has existed in West- 
ern mystical traditions. 

In January 1978, McCall's magazine published a survey of 
sixty thousand readers showing an overwhelming skepticism 
about organized religion, even among churchgoers. A poll 
commissioned by Protestant and Catholic groups and released 
in June 1978 revealed what Gallup summarized as "a severe 
indictment of organized religion." Eighty-six percent of the 
"unchurched" and 76 percent of the churchgoers agreed that 
individuals should arrive at their beliefs outside organized reli- 
gion. About 60 percent of the churchgoers agreed with the 
statement, "Most churches have lost the real spiritual part of 

Formal religion in the West has been shaken to its roots by 
defections, dissent, rebellions, loss of influence, diminishing 
financial support. Unlike the schools, churches are not man- 
dated by law and their bureaucracies are not directly tax sup- 
ported; they cannot pass bond issues or raise property taxes. If 
they cannot find new roles in a rapidly changing society, they 
may go the way of the railroads — without Amtrak. 

A Catholic theologian, Anthony Padovano, remarked at a 
1976 conference on meditation: 

The religious response that has occurred in the Western 
world — a revolution that has made us more sensitive to the 
religions of the Orient — is an understanding that whatever 
answers there are must come from ourselves. The great 
turmoil in the religions is caused by the spirit demanding 
interiority. Faith is not dying in the West. It is merely mov- 
ing inside. 

That most authoritarian of religious institutions, the Catholic 
church, has suffered what historian John Tracy Ellis called "a 
shattering of its fixity," a trauma apparent in the new variety of 
doctrine and discipline among American Catholics. "No one 
group has full authority nor the ability to impose it on other 
groups," Ellis said. The American church is "shaken and un- 

Spiritual Adventure 369 

certain in an anxious, uncertain time." Laypeople are urging 
reforms, evangelizing and participating in pentecostal and 
charismatic movements; by 1979 one-half million Catholics 
were estimated to have become charismatics, speaking in 
tongues and engaging in healing practices. The number of 
nuns and priests declined dramatically during the seventies, 
theologians were dissenting from papal authority, parochial 
school populations were declining. Similar rebellions have 
been taking place in nearly every organized religious body in 
the country. 

A convocation of spiritual leaders read a statement to the 
United Nations in October 1975: 

. . . The crises of our time are challenging the world reli- 
gions to release a new spiritual force transcending reli- 
gious, cultural, and national boundaries into a new con- 
sciousness of the oneness of the human community and so 
putting into effect a spiritual dynamic toward the solutions 

of the world's problems We affirm a new spirituality 

divested of insularity and directed toward planetary con- 

An increasing number of churches and synagogues have 
begun to enlarge their context to include support communities 
for personal growth, holistic health centers, healing services, 
meditation workshops, consciousness altering through music, 
even biofeedback training. 

Cultural awakenings, as historian William McLoughlin 
noted, are preceded by a spiritual crisis, a change in the way 
human beings see themselves in relationship to each other and 
to the divine. During "great awakenings" there is a shift from a 
religion mediated by authorities to one of direct spiritual expe- 
rience. Not unexpectedly, some religious groups see the emer- 
gent spiritual tradition as a fearful threat to the Judeo-Christian 
tradition. The fundamental Berkeley Christian Coalition, spon- 
sor of the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, devoted its August 
1978 journal to this threat: 

At this point in Western cultural history, it is an under- 
statement to say that Eastern metaphysics and the New 
Consciousness have gained a significant following in our 
society. Just ten years ago the funky drug-based spiritu- 
ality of the hippie and the mysticism of the Western yogi 
were restricted to the counterculture. Today, both have 

370 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

found their way into the mainstream of our cultural men- 
tality. Science, the health professions, and the arts, not to 
mention psychology and religion, are all engaged in a fun- 
damental reconstruction of their basic premises. 

The coalition blames the rise of New Age spirituality on the 
timidity of the Christian church in America: 

Eastern metaphysics and the New Consciousness, on the 
other hand, derive their popularity in part from the fact 
that they directly challenge the oppressive assumptions of 
technocratic Western mentality. They have not been afraid 
to charge our rationalist, materialist, mercantile culture 
with depleting the quality of human life. . . . Leaders of 
these movements have stepped into the vacancy created 
by the church's prophetic silence. They call plastic plastic 
and poison poison in a society whose economy is built on 
convincing people that both are good for them. Moreover 
the followers . . . are hard at work developing workable al- 
ternatives to the death-dealing culture they condemn. 

The SCP expressed concern about the increasing legitimacy of 
the spiritual movement in the eyes of the medical establish- 
ment and its ability to draw on and consolidate support from 
many other groups: humanistic psychology, secular 
humanism. Eastern mysticism, authors like George Leonard, 
noted medical personalities like Jonas Salk. At every hand the 
Berkeley Christian Coalition detected the influence of non- 
Christian doctrine: the yin-yang symbol drawn by Salk at a San 
Diego conference, Ruth Carter Stapleton's friendly attitude to- 
ward meditation, references by physician-speakers to the Kab- 
balah and chakras. 

The idea of a God within was particularly disturbing: The 
religious point of view embodied in the holistic health move- 
ment, said the coalition, "is an integral part of the mystical 
worldview that is making a coordinated thrust into every as- 
pect of our cultural consciousness It is not a fad, it will not 

go away, and it is fundamentally hostile to Biblical Chris- 

Ironically, every organized religion has been based on the 
claims of direct experience of one or more persons, whose rev- 
elations are then handed down as articles of faith. Those who 
want direct knowledge, the mystics, have always been treated 

Spiritual Adventure 371 

more or less as heretics, whether they were the medieval mys- 
tics within Christianity, the Sufis within the borders of Islam, 
or the Kabbalists within Judaism. 

Now the heretics are gaining ground, doctrine is losing its 
authority, and knowing is superseding belief. 


"Mystical states," said William James, "seem to those who ex- 
perience them to be states of knowledge. They are insights into 
depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect." 

The dictionary's first definition of mystical is "direct com- 
munion with ultimate reality." The second meaning: "vague or 
incomprehensible." Here is a central problem: Direct commun- 
ion with ultimate reality is vague and incomprehensible to 
those who have not experienced it! 

The word mystical derives from the Greek mystos, "keeping 
silence." Mystical experience reveals phenomena that are 
usually silent and inexplicable. This expanded consciousness, 
this whole-knowing, transcends our limited powers of descrip- 
tion. Sensation, perception, and intuition seem to merge to 
create something that is none of these. 

A Canadian psychologist, Herbert Koplowitz, has called this 
whole-knowing Unitary Operational Thinking, a stage that is 
two steps beyond the most advanced level of cognitive de- 
velopment in the theory of Jean Piaget. Piaget's stages — 
Sensori-Motor, Pre-Operational Thinking, Concrete Opera- 
tional Thinking, Formal Operational Thinking — span the spec- 
trum of human mental development from the diffuse world of 
the infant to the symbolic, abstract thought of an intellectually 
active young adult. 

Beyond ordinary cognitive thought Koplowitz postulates a 
fifth stage. Systems Thinking, in which the individual under- 
stands that there are often simultaneous causes that cannot be 
separated. Conventional science assumes that cause and effect 
can be clearly separated and does not reach the level of Systems 

In the sixth stage — Unitary Operational Thought — we dis- 
cover our own conditioning. We understand that the way we 
perceive the external world is only one of many possible con- 
structs. "Opposites, which had been thought of as separate 
and distinct, are seen as interdependent. Causality, which had 

372 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

been thought of as linear, is now seen as pervading the uni- 
verse, connecting all events with each other.” There is no 
dualism, no separation of mind and body, self and others. 

Having achieved a cognitive state that empowers a more co- 
herent understanding, the Unitary Thinker is to a Formal Op- 
erational adult as that adult is to a child. "Just as mysticism is 
not a rejection of science but a transcendence of it," Koplowitz 
said, "science is not a rejection of mysticism but a precursor 
of it." 

Unitary thought is holistic. Because it goes beyond the 
further reaches of our rational tools, it can only be conveyed 
through paradoxes, meditation, experience. "Mystic traditions 
such as Taoism may offer the most thoroughly developed 
bodies of Unitary Operational Thought," Koplowitz said. 

To experience the domain of Unitary Knowing we must get 
outside our old, limited way of perceiving. As psychologist Ron 
Browning put it, "To grasp that which is beyond the system, 
you need to transcend the system. You have to get out of Tine- 
ness' into 'squareness,' out of linearity into planes, then shift or 
expand into three-dimensional space-time, then four-dimen- 
sional space Change at this level is a change in the very 

nature of change." 

As a metaphor Browning suggested that we imagine a sys- 
tem called "asleep." The realm lying beyond that system is 
called "awake." "Inside 'asleep' we can have a sign represent- 
ing awake, we can have the word awake, we can have symbols 
and images — everything but actually being awake. You can 
dream that you have awakened, but you cannot, within that 
system, actually wake up." 

Direct knowing gets us out of the system. It is the awaken- 
ing. It reveals the context that generates our lesser reality. The 
new perspective alters our experiences by changing our vision. 

To Jung, for example, the transpersonal perspective, what he 
called "the raising of the level of consciousness," enabled some 
individuals to outgrow problems that destroyed others. "Some 
higher or wider interest arose on the person's horizon, and 
through this widening of his view the insoluble problem lost its 
urgency. It was not solved logically in its own terms but faded 
out in contrast to a new and stronger life- tendency. It was not 
repressed and made unconscious but merely appeared in a 
different light." 

Transpersonal psychology, which draws from the world's 
spiritual disciplines, does not aim to reduce suffering to "nor- 
mal" dimensions but to transcend suffering. "Getting in touch 

Spiritual Adventure 373 

with one's feelings” is of little value if those dark feelings are 
not transformed. Anger, fear, despair, resentment, jealousy, 
greed — these can all be changed, not just identified, through 
the psychologies of direct knowing. 

A shift from intellectual concept to direct knowing was de- 
scribed by one of the Aquarian Conspirators on a question- 

One of my personal turning points came when I awoke 
one morning from a dream which I interpreted in a very 
discouraging way, and I seriously contemplated sui- 
cide. . . . The more I did that, the lower I got, until finally 
something somewhere somehow clicked. I'm not sure how 
else to describe it. The ideas I had written about conceptu- 
ally four years before at an intellectual, left-brained level 
were now real at an experiential level. I realized that my 
choices were — as I had written, as others had written — 
limited only by me and my perceptions of reality. 

That was rough but a great turning point toward con- 
sciousness and freedom. It was almost like I had to go 
through midnight to get to the dawn. 

Brain scientist Karl Pribram tried to describe an even greater 
perceptual shift: 

It isn't that the world of appearances is wrong; it isn't that 
there aren't objects out there, at one level of reality. 

It's that if you penetrate through and look at the uni- 
verse with a holographic system, you arrive at a different 
reality, one that can explain things that have hitherto 
remained scientifically inexplicable: paranormal phenome- 
na .. . synchronidties, the apparently meaningful coin- 
cidence of events. 

As a way of looking at consciousness, holographic theory is 
closer to mystical and Eastern thought than to our ordinary 
perception, he said. "It will take a while for people to become 
comfortable with the idea that there is an order of reality other 
than the world of appearances." But the discoveries of sdence 
have begun to make sense of mystical experiences people have 
been describing for millennia. They suggest that we can tap 
into that order of reality behind the world of appearances. 
Perhaps mystics have hit upon a mechanism that gives them 
entry to the implicate, or enfolded, order: "My best hunch is 

374 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

that access to those other domains is through attention . . . that 
the brain can somehow abrogate its ordinary constraints and 
gain access to the implicate order." 

Such a shift, he said, might be mediated by the brain's con- 
nection between the frontal lobe and the older limbic region, 
the tie between the cortex and deep brain structures. This re- 
gion is a major regulator of attention. "Perhaps we can eventu- 
ally discover the rules for 'tuning in/ for leaping into the time- 
less, spaceless domain." 

Physicist Fritjof Capra recounts such an experience in which 
he no longer merely believed in a dynamic universe, based on 
his intellectual understanding, but knew it to be so. He recalls 
that he was sitting by the ocean one late summer afternoon, 
watching the waves, feeling the rhythm of his breathing, when 
he suddenly experienced the whole environment as a cosmic 
dance — not just as a concept of physics but as an immediate, 
living experience: 

I "saw" cascades of energy coming down from outer 
space, in which particles were created and destroyed in 
rhythmic pulses; I "saw" the atoms of the elements and 
those of my body participating in this cosmic dance of 
energy; I felt its rhythm and I "heard" its sound, and at 
that moment I knew this was the Dance of Shiva 

Spiritual disciplines are designed to attune the brain to that 
larger domain. Ordinarily the brain is unfocused and dyssyn- 
chronous. It is also busy filtering out a vast amount of informa- 
tion not needed for survival; otherwise we would be bom- 
barded by awareness of electrical fields, slight temperature 
changes, cosmic radiation, internal physiological processes. Yet 
we can have access to a wider sensory realm and the mystical 
dimension by altering the brain's biochemistry. Meditation, 
breathing exercises, and fasting are among the common 
technologies for shifting brain function. 2 

For many people in many cultures, psychedelic drugs have 
offered a beginning trail if seldom a fully transformative path. 
Aldous Huxley, who had no illusion about drugs as permanent 
routes to enlightenment, pointed out that even temporary self- 

2 Those surveyed in the Aquarian Conspiracy questionnaire revealed expe- 
rience in a variety of spiritual and meditative disciplines, including Zen Bud- 
dhism (40 percent), yoga (40 percent), Christian mysticism (31 percent). Tran- 
scendental Meditation (21 percent), Sufism (19 percent), and the Kabbalah (10 
percent), along with many dozens of other systems. 

Spiritual Adventure 375 

transcendence would shake the entire society to its rational 
roots. "Although these new mind-changers may start by being 
something of an embarrassment, they will tend in the long run 
to deepen the spiritual life of the communities " 

Huxley believed that the long-predicted religious revival in 
the United States would start with drugs, not evangelists. 
"From being an activity concerned mainly with symbols reli- 
gion will be transformed into an activity concerned mainly with 
experience and intuition — an everyday mysticism." 

He said that he himself had been electrified by understand- 
ing fully, under the influence of mescaline, the radical meaning 
of the phrase God is love. One of the Aquarian Conspirators 
said, "After many years in intellectual, left-brain pursuit of 
'reality,' I learned horn LSD about alternative realities — and 
suddenly all bibles made sense." Others have said that they 
seemed to experience the nature of matter, the unity of all 
things, life as a splendid game we are playing, a story we are 
telling. One reported experiencing "dynamic present time — 
that the world is flow and uncertainty, not static as in the 
concepts of our culture." 

Psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, who has guided over three 
thousand LSD sessions and has had access to eighteen 
hundred records of sessions conducted by his colleagues, sees 
psychedelics as catalysts or amplifiers of mental processes. 
There is no element of the LSD experience that does not have a 
non-drug counterpart. Psychedelics seem to facilitate access 
to the holographic domain described by Pribram and David 
Bohm, Grof said. 3 The individual may experience himself as a 
field of consciousness rather than as an isolated entity. Past, 
present, and future are juxtaposed. Space itself seems mul- 
tidimensional, limitless. Matter is no longer perceived as tangi- 
ble but disintegrates into patterns of energy. Subjects report 
direct experience of microcosm and macrocosm, vibrating 
molecules and spinning galaxies, archetypes and deities, the 
reliving of early experiences, even what seems to be their own 
birth or uterine existence. "In the experiences of consciousness 
of the Universal Mind and the Void, LSD subjects . . . find the 
very categories of time, space, matter, and physical laws of any 

Compelling mystical experiences are by no means universal among 
psychedelics users. These are dependent on many factors: dosage, prior expe- 
riences, introspectiveness, willingness to explore states of consciousness, prior 
interest in spirituality, expectations, and an appropriate environment. Casual 
recreational use often results in little more than sensory alterations and a 

376 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

kind to be arbitrary and ultimately meaningless categories.” 
The Cartesian-Newtonian worldview becomes philosophically 
untenable. It seems simplistic and arbitrary, useful for the prac- 
tical purposes of everyday life but "unfit for the purpose of 
philosophical speculation and understanding. . . . The universe 
is [now] seen as a divine play and an infinite web of adventures 
in consciousness." 

If it can be demonstrated that subjects in unusual states of 
consciousness have access to accurate information about the 
universe, if they experience it as portrayed by quantum- 
relativistic physics, "we might have to abandon the derogatory 
term 'altered states of consciousness."' At least some of these 
states might be seen as a valid source of information about the 
nature of the universe and the dimension of the human mind. 

"The essential conflict," Grof said, "is no longer between 
science and mysticism." Rather it is between the emergent 
paradigm and a "coalition" paradigm: the joining of the old 
mechanical model of science and ordinary or "pedestrian" con- 
sciousness. In other words, the problem is not so much con- 
tradictory data as contradictory states of consciousness — a con- 
flict Grof feels is resolved by the holographic view. 


In his account of a Sufi apprenticeship. Reshad Feild said: 

I suddenly understood that it is most certainly necessary to 
seek, to ask the question; rather than pushing away the 
answer by dashing after it, one must ask and listen at the 

same time At that moment I knew that I was being 

heard, that I was dissolving and becoming food for the 
great transformation process that was taking place in the 
universe. ... At the same time that I was dying I was being 
born. . . . 

Hamid said, "The Soul is a knowing substance." 

In the West religious issues are customarily supposed to be 
resolved by faith, but a teacher in the traditions of direct know- 
ing encourages questions, even doubts. This spirituality asks 
the seeker to drop beliefs, not add to them. 

Assorted dangers await the spiritual adventurer. We have 
discussed some obvious ones in an earlier chapter: regressive 

Spiritual Adventure 377 

behavior, unsettling experiences, fanaticism, the passive sur- 
render to an unworthy teacher, pendulum change. 

But the disciplines themselves warn of other > subtler dan- 
gers. "The Way in this world is like the edge of a blade," says a 
Hasidic master, and, in the Katha Upanishad, the famous 
caveat: "The path is narrow . . . sharp as a razor's edge, most 
difficult to tread." 

Whereas the outsider may perceive the spiritual seeker's 
transient loss of internal equilibrium as alarming, a teacher 
might consider it a necessary step. The greater danger, in the 
teacher's mind, is that the student may become certain of the 
answers, stop there, and never reach appropriate uncertainty. 

Asked to name ideas they had given up as a result of the 
transformative process, several of those who responded to the 
Aquarian Conspiracy questionnaire said "conventional Chris- 
tianity," "religious dogma" — and about an equal number said 
"atheism" or "agnosticism." 

The Radical Center of spiritual experience seems to be know- 
ing without doctrine. 

One contemporary seeker described his own experience: 

There were a number of times when I felt I really under- 
stood what it was all about. Then several years later I 
would have to say that was a stupid thing From a sub- 

sequent vantage point, I obviously hadn't understood a 
damned thing. I think this is fairly universal. 

. . . Every time you enlarge that knowing — or acquire 
more of it — you see things in a different perspective. It 
isn't that it was really wrong before, but it's just seen quite 

differently, in a different light That's the essence of 

transformation, reaching the part of ourselves that knows, 
that doesn't feel threatened and doesn't fight the meta- 

Teachers and techniques in the spiritual disciplines must be 
considered together, for the teacher does not impart knowl- 
edge but technique. This is the "transmission" of knowledge 
by direct experience. 

Doctrine, on the other hand, is second-hand knowledge, a 
danger. "Stand above, pass on, and be free" is the advice of 
Rinzai, the same sage who advised the seeker to kill the pa- 
triarchs or the Buddha if he should encounter them. "Do not 
get entangled in any teaching." 

Disciples are supposed to find the teacher, not vice versa. 

378 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

The teacher's authority rests on personal liberation. One fol- 
lows qualities, not people. 

The path to direct knowing is beautifully illustrated in a 
series of paintings from twelfth-century China known as the 
ten ox-herding pictures. The ox represents "ultimate nature." 
At first ( Seeking the Ox) the searcher undertakes to look for 
something he only vaguely apprehends. Then (Finding the 
Tracks ) he sees in traces of his own consciousness the first evi- 
dence that there truly is an ox. After a time (First Glimpse) he 
has his first direct experience and knows now that the ox is 
omnipresent. Next (Catching the Ox) he undertakes advanced 
spiritual practices to help him deal with the wild strength of the 
ox. Gradually (Taming the Ox) he achieves a more subtle, inti- 
mate relationship with ultimate nature. In this phase, the 
seeker un learns many of the distinctions that were useful in 
earlier stages. "The Ox is a free companion now, not a tool for 
plowing the field of enlightenment," Lex Hixon, a meditation 
teacher, wrote in his sensitive commentary on the pictures. 

In the stage of illumination (Riding the Ox Home) the former 
disciple, now a sage, realizes that disciplines were not neces- 
sary; enlightenment was always at hand. Afterward (Ox Forgot- 
ten, Self Alone and Ox and Self Forgotten) he comes even nearer to 
pure consciousness and discovers that there is no such person 
as an illuminated sage. There is no enlightenment. There is no 
holiness because everything is holy. The profane is sacred. 
Everyone is a sage waiting to happen. 

In the penultimate phase (Return to the Source) the sag el 
seeker merges with the domain that generates the phenomenal 
world. A scene of mountains, pine trees, clouds, and waves 
emerges. "This waxing and waning of life is no phantom but a 
manifestation of the source," reads the caption. But there is a 
stage beyond this idyll. 

The final picture (Entering the Marketplace with Helping Hands) 
evokes human compassion and action. The seeker is now 
shown as a cheerful peasant who wanders from village to vil- 
lage. "The gate of his cottage is closed, and even the wisest 
cannot find him." He has gone so deeply into human expe- 
rience that he cannot be traced. Knowing now that all the sages 
are one, he does not follow great teachers. Seeing the intrinsic 
Buddha nature in all human beings, even innkeepers and 
fishmongers, he brings them to bloom. 

These ideas are part of all traditions of direct knowing: the 
glimpse of the true nature of reality, the dangers of early expe- 
riences, the need to train attention, the eventual disassociation 

Spiritual Adventure 379 

from ego or individual self, enlightenment, the discovery that 
the light was there all along, connection with the source that 
generates the world of appearances, reunion with all living 

The methods for attaining liberation were likened by Buddha 
to a raft that takes you to the far shore. Once on the opposite 
bank, you have no need for the method. Similarly, the teacher 
is compared to a finger pointing to the moon. Once you see the 
moon — once you understand the process — there is no point in 
looking at the finger. Just as we need to become rich before we 
can discover we didn't need to be rich, we acquire techniques 
that teach us we didn't need techniques. The sacred takes us 
back to the profane, but we will never again know it as profane. 

We need not still our passions, Blake said, but only “cultivate 
our understandings Everything that lives is holy." 


Two key principles seem to emerge in all mystical experience. 
We might call them “flow" and “wholeness." The ancient 
Tibetan teacher Tilopa referred to them as “the principle of the 
nonabiding" and “the principle of nondistinction," and he 
warned against harming them. Our culture has indeed harmed 
these principles. We try to freeze the nonabiding, we try to 
imprison that which exists only in movement, freedom, rela- 
tionship. And we betray wholeness, nondistinction, by break- 
ing apart everything in sight so that we miss the underlying 
connection of everything in the universe. 

In mystical experience there is the sense that “this is the way 
things are." Not how we wish them to be, not how we analyze 
them to be, not as we have been taught, but the nature of 
things — the Way. 

Flow and wholeness are seen as true principles, not just in 
relation to work, health, or psychological growth but 
throughout the fabric of life. The developer of a kind of psycho- 
logical aikido for dealing with conflict remarked on the way the 
technique of flowing with an opponent causes a gradual 
change in the practitioner. “It may be subtle at first, but even 
the most mean-spirited of people begin to relinquish their 
grasp on their aggression, lose their anger, and reconnect with 
the living force." 

These mystical experiences reflect, more than just the flow- 
ing wholeness inherent in living systems (as in the theory of 

380 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

dissipative structures), the flow of our world from another di- 
mension and the tendency of the universe to create ever more 
complex wholes. On an everyday level this knowledge shifts 
our time frame from temporal to eternal; we accept imperma- 
nence and cease struggling to keep the same all that must 
change. We experience life's blows and blessings with greater 

Our futile effort at control impedes the flow we might other- 
wise have in our lives. Once we get out of our own way, we can 
become ourselves. “I set the rivers free for all mankind,” says 
that most ancient of mystical writings, the Rig Veda . 

"The world is a spinning die,” according to an old Hasidic 
passage, ”. . .and all things turn and spin and change, for at 
the root all is one, and salvation inheres in the change and 
return of things.” 

Just as we must trust ourselves to the buoyancy of water if 
we are to swim, we can relax into that flow, turn with the 
spinning die. The novices in Zen monasteries are called unsui, 
cloud- water. They are meant to move freely, to form and re- 
form spontaneously, to seek a way around obstacles. In ancient 
traditions, consciousness itself is pictured as an emergent wave 
from the source, very much like the interference patterns pos- 
tulated in the holographic theory described in Chapter 6. 

The second principle of wholeness — non-distinction — rep- 
resents the connectedness, the context, of everything. Just as 
science demonstrates a web of relationship underlying every- 
thing in the universe, a glittering network of events, so the 
mystical experience of wholeness encompasses all separation. 
"In free space there is neither right nor left,” says a Hasidic 
master. "All souls are one. Each is a spark from the original 
soul, and this soul is inherent in all souls.” Buddhism main- 
tains that all human beings are Buddhas, but not all have 
awakened to their true nature. Yoga literally means "union.” 
Full enlightenment is a vow to save "all sentient beings.” 

This wholeness encompasses self, others, ideas. 

Love is felt as a dynamic state of consciousness rather than as 
an emotion. Just as fear is constricted and chaotic, love is wide 
and coherent — a creative flow, harmony, acceptance of human 
frailty imbedded in deep self-knowledge. It is defenseless 
power, communication, vanished boundaries, closure. 

You are joined to a great Self: Tat tvam assi, "Thou art That." 
And because that Self is inclusive, you are joined to all others. 
In the mystical vision of William Blake: 

Spiritual Adventure 381 

Awake! awake o sleeper of the land of shadows, wake! 

I am in you and you in me, mutual in love . . . 

Fibers of love from man to man . . . 

Lo! we are One. 

Or, as a contemporary mystic expressed it on a personalized 
license plate, IMU URI. 

This wholeness unites opposites. This Radical Center, this 
healing of the separation of human beings from each other and 
from nature is described in all mystical traditions. Nicholas da 
Cusa called it the coincidentia oppositorium , the union of oppo- 
sites. In the Hasidic writings it is "the union of qualities, twos 
which oppose each other like two colors . . . but seen with the 
true inner eye form one simple unity." In Buddhism it is 
madhya, the transcendent middle way. The Kogi Indians of 
Colombia speak of the Way of the Souls leading at once up- 
ward and downward, the joining of polarities, the black sun. 

In these spiritual traditions there is neither good nor evil. 
There is only light and the absence of light . . . wholeness and 
brokenness . . . flow and struggle. 

A young therapist said: 

An image occurs to me: the ocean shore. An outcropping 
of rock extending into the sea, strong and narrow. Which, 
when I restrict my field of vision sufficiently, appears to 
split the water into two distinct and separate bodies. The 
action of the waves lapping up on either side makes it 
seem as though these two are ever straining toward one 
another, striving with each surge to overcome this rock 
which prevents their joining . . . when, by simply stepping 
back and seeing more, by taking an all-encompassing per- 
spective, expanding consciousness, I see that the separa- 
tion is only an illusion — that both waves are and always 
were part of the one ocean, separated only by choice of my 

perception and my notion of striving to be one 

I see that I am already whole, that there is nothing to 
overcome. In those moments of emptiness, of letting be, 
of complete contact with another, I know that I am all I 
can be. 

He is whole, "in place," awake to what Huxley called the 
"Allrightness" of the world, what Milton Mayerhoff described 
as knowing that "life is enough," the creative insight Rollo May 

382 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

called "this-is-the-way-things-are-meant-to-be." Home is not 
a place but an experience. The open secret of the spiritual disci- 
plines is becoming whole, becoming oneself, going home. "The 
way home," said Colin Wilson in his study of mystics and 
artists, "is the way forward, more deeply into life." By defini- 
tion, the Aquarian Conspiracy is in the world, like the "hidden 
yogis" of which Sri Ramakrishna spoke. 

In this wholeness, oddly enough, virtues we might once 
have sought in vain through moral concepts now come spon- 
taneously. It is easier to give, to be compassionate. 


In the emergent spiritual tradition God is not the personage of 
our Sunday-school mentality but more nearly the dimension 
described by William James: 

The further limits of our being plunge, it seems to me, into 
an altogether other dimension of existence from the sensi- 
ble and merely "understandable" world We belong to 

it in a more intimate sense than that in which we belong to 
the visible world, for we belong in the most intimate sense 

wherever our ideals belong 

I will call this higher part of the universe by the name of 

God is experienced as flow, wholeness, the infinite kaleido- 
scope of life and death. Ultimate Cause, the ground of being, 
what Alan Watts called "the silence out of which all sound 
comes." God is the consciousness that manifests as lila, the 
play of the universe. God is the organizing matrix we can expe- 
rience but not tell, that which enlivens matter. 

In J. D. Salinger's short story, "Teddy," a spiritually preco- 
cious youngster recalls his experience of immanent God while 
watching his little sister drink her milk. "... All of a sudden I 
saw that she was God and the milk was God. I mean, all she 
was doing was pouring God into God. . . 

Once you have achieved the essence of religious experience, 
asked Meister Eckhart, what do you need with the form? "No 
one can know God who has not first known himself," he told 
his medieval followers. "Go to the depths of the soul, the secret 
place ... to the roots, to the heights; for all that God can do is 
focused there." 

Spiritual Adventure 383 

British theologian John Robinson writes of a "shot-silk uni- 
verse, spirit and matter, inside and outside, divine and human, 
shimmering like aspects of one reality which cannot be sepa- 
rated or divided." To Alfred North Whitehead, whose influ- 
ence has risen like a flood tide in recent years, God is "the 
mirror image to structure in the [material] world. The world is 
incomplete; in its very nature it requires an entity at the base 
of all things, to complete it. This entity is God, primordial 

Buckminster Fuller tried to capture the sense of God as 

For God, to me, it seems 

is a verb 

not a noun, 

proper or improper; 

is the articulation 

not the art . . . 

is loving, 

not the abstraction of love . . . 

Yes, God is a verb, 

the most active, connoting the vast harmonic 

reordering the universe 

from unleashed chaos of energy. 

We need not postulate a purpose for this Ultimate Cause nor 
wonder who or what caused whatever Big Bang launched the 
visible universe. There is only the experience. To Kazantzakis, 
God was the sum total of consciousness in the universe, ex- 
panding through human evolution. In the mystical experience 
there is the felt presence of an all-encompassing love, compas- 
sion, power. Individuals revived after clinical death sometimes 
describe passage down a dark tunnel to an unearthly light that 
seems to emit love and understanding. It is as if the light itself 
is a manifestation of universal mind. 

Mystical experiences nearly always lead one to a belief that 
some aspect of consciousness is imperishable. In a Buddhist 
metaphor the consciousness of the individual is like a flame 
that bums through the night. It is not the same flame over time, 
yet neither is it another flame. 

A number of those filling out the Aquarian Conspiracy ques- 
tionnaire commented that their experiences had forced them to 
give up their previous assumption that bodily death ends con- 

384 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

sciousness. Despite their disaffiliation with formal religion, 53 
percent expressed strong belief in such survival and another 23 
percent said they were “moderately sure,” a total of 75 percent. 
Only 5 percent were skeptical and 3 percent disbelieving. 

The strongest believers were those who recounted brushes 
with death. Belief correlated strongly with the incidence of 
peak experiences and the pursuit of spiritual disciplines. A fa- 
mous actress attributed her lifelong interest in the spiritual to a 
near-drowning when she was three: “Euphoria, music, and 
color surpassed anythihg known in the natural physical state." 

Although he did not mention the incident in his 1927 account 
of his famous flight, Charles Lindbergh described in The Spirit 
of St. Louis (1953) an experience of disembodiment, the tran- 
scendence of space and time, loss of the fear of death, a sense 
of omniscience, remembrance of other lives, and a lasting shift 
in values. 

Lindbergh wrote that in the eighteenth hour of his journey, 
he felt himself as "an awareness spreading through space, over 
the earth and into the heavens, unhampered by time or sub- 
stance " The fuselage behind him filled with ghostly pres- 

ences, “vaguely outlined forms, transparent, moving, riding 
weightless with me in the plane." He “saw" them behind him 
“as though my skull was one great eye." They conversed with 
him, advised him on problems of his navigation, "giving me 
messages of importance unattainable in ordinary life." 

There was no weight to his body, no hardness to the stick. 
He felt more akin to the spirits, "on the borderline of life and a 
greater realm beyond, as though caught in the field of gravita- 
tion between two planets. . . He felt as if he were acted upon 
by forces too weak to be measured by normal means, "yet 
representing power incomparably stronger than I've ever 

The presences seemed neither intruders nor strangers, more 
like a gathering of family and friends long separated, as though 
he had known them in some past incarnation. 

"Death no longer seems the final end it used to be, but rather 
the entrance to a new and free existence," he wrote. The values 
of his twenty-five years — even the importance of the long- 
dreamed-of flight — altered sharply. 

Fifty years later, when Lindbergh lay dying in his cottage in 
Hawaii, his wife asked him to share with her the experience of 
confronting the end. What was it like to face death? "There 
isn't anything to face," he said. 

Spiritual Adventure 385 


Contemporary mystical experiences from many individuals 
and many parts of the world have centered in recent years on a 
collective and intensifying vision, the sense of an impending 
transition in the human story: an evolution of consciousness as 
significant as any step in the long chain of our biological evolu- 
tion. The consensual vision, whatever its variations, sees this 
transformation of consciousness as the moment anticipated by 
older prophecies in all the traditions of direct knowing — the 
death of one world and the birth of a new, an apocalypse, the 
“end of days" period in the Kabbalah, the awakening of in- 
creasing numbers of human beings to their godlike potential. 
“The seed of God is in us," Meister Eckhart said. “Pear seeds 
grow into pear trees, nut seeds into nut trees, and God seed 
into God." 

The instruction booklet for Stargate, a contemporary sym- 
bolic game relating to consciousness, opens: "The turning- 
about is upon us, the turning of mind, the expansion of eyes . . . 
the light that shapes from within." 

Always, the vision of evolution toward the light. Light is the 
oldest and most pervasive metaphor in spiritual experience. 
We speak of enlightenment, the city of light, the Light of the 
World, children of light, the "white-light experience." 

"Light . . . light," wrote T. S. Eliot, "visible reminder of invis- 
ible light." To Honore de Balzac, it seemed that humankind 
was on the eve of a great struggle; the forces are there, he 
insisted: "I feel in myself a life so luminous that it might en- 
lighten a world, and yet I am shut up in a sort of mineral." In 
The Reflexive Universe Arthur Young, inventor of the Bell 
helicopter, offered in speculative scientific terms an idea as old 
as myth and Plato: We represent a "fall" into matter from light, 
and the lightward ascent has begun again. 

Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote a poem about "Olbers' para- 
dox," the observation of a learned astronomer that there were 
relatively few stars nearby; the farther away he looked, the 
more there were. 

So that from this we can deduce 
that in the infinite distances 
there must be a place 
there must be a place 

where all is light 

386 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

and that the light from that high place 
where all is light 
simply hasn't got here yet . . . 

"Let the light penetrate the darkness until the darkness 
shines and there is no longer any division between the two," 
says a Hasidic passage. Before the soul enters the world, it is 
conducted through all the worlds and shown the first light so 
that it may forever yearn to attain it. The sadik in the Hasidic 
tradition, like the Bodhisattva of Buddhism, has allowed the 
light to enter him and shine out into the world again. 

To the third-century mystic, Plotinus, it was "the clear light 
which is Itself." The Sufi dervish dancer does the "turn" with 
upraised right hand, symbolically bringing light onto the earth. 
The shaman achieves a state of perfect balance so that he might 
see a blinding light. 

The dream of light and liberation is poetically expressed in an 
apocryphal contemporary Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ. For 
too long, it says, our temples have been the tombs of the hid- 
den things of time. Our temples, crypts, and caves are dark. 
We have been unable to see the patterns. "In light there are 

no secret things There is no lonely pilgrim on the way to 

light. Men only gain the heights by helping others gain the 
heights. . . . 

"We know that the light is coming over the hills. God speed 
the light." 





All real living is meeting. 


Each of us is responsible for everything to everyone else. 


The personal paradigm shift is like a sea-crossing to 
the New World. The immigrant, try as he might, can- 
not persuade all his friends and loved ones to make 
the journey. Those who stay behind cannot under- 
stand why the familiar did not hold the immigrant. Why did he 
abandon his accustomed homeland? Saddest of all, how could 
their affections not hold him? 

And the immigrant learns that you cannot really restore the 
Old World on the new continent. New England is not England; 
Nova Scotia is not Scotland. Distance weakens the old reality, 
and communications become difficult, poignant. Letters to the 
Old World cannot evoke all the canyons and peaks that pulled 
the immigrant relentlessly across the unknown. 

Ongoing personal transformation moves one away from the 
Old World — sometimes abruptly, more often over years. As we 
have seen in an earlier chapter, people change jobs, even voca- 


388 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

tions, in the wake of shifting perceptions. If the powerful inter- 
est in the transformative process and the search for meaning 
are not shared by one's marriage partner, the marriage is likely 
to suffer. Over time, differences may seem more and more 
pronounced, old schisms widen. Many old friendships and ac- 
quaintances fall away; new friendships, even a whole new 
support network, take their place. Based as they are on shared 
values and a shared journey, these new relationships are 
perhaps more intense. 

Relatives, colleagues, friends, and marriage partners, under- 
standably threatened by these changes, often exert pressure on 
the individual to drop the practices or friendships involved in 
the change. These pressures only widen the gap. You don't 
stop an immigrant by trying to revive his hopes for the Old 

In this chapter we will look at changing personal relation- 
ships, the nature of transformative relationships, and the effect 
of the transformative process on life transitions or "passages.” 

Relationships are the crucible of the transformative process. 
They are bound to alter, given the individual's greater willing- 
ness to risk, trust in intuition, sense of wider connection with 
others, recognition of cultural conditioning. 

We are seeing the subtle power custom has wielded over our 
lives. Cultural norms and mores are the great unexamined as- 
sumptions that run our lives. We become accustomed to roles; 
they become customary and therefore unchallenged. Custom 
is like a buildup of smog. We only notice it when it has 
been swept away on a clear, clean day. We may fail to see the 
outlines of a new cultural development until its effects are 

Once-entrenched patterns of marriage, family, sexuality, and 
social institutions are being shaken by radically new, or radi- 
cally old, alternatives. There are no formulas and there are 
many failures, but there are increasing numbers of individuals 
trying to see more clearly, love more honestly, and do less 
harm. Attitudes, not answers per se, are the key. 

In early chapters we looked at the ways in which a new 
consensus is emerging in such collective institutions as gov- 
ernment, medicine, education, and business. But "the family," 
"marriage," and social relationships in general cannot be re- 
thought by a committee or reformed by a program. These are 
not true institutions but millions upon millions of relation- 
ships — connections — that can only be understood at the level 

Human Connections 


of the individual, and then only as a dynamic process. Social 
custom is perhaps the deepest of cultural trances. 


When one begins the transformative process, death and birth 
are imminent: the death of custom as authority, the birth of 
the self. 

In a sense our simultaneous effort toward autonomy and 
connection, contradictory as it seems, is an attempt to be real. 
We are stripping away the trappings and constraints of our 
culture: false machismo, false eyelashes, barriers, limits. 

Several men who filled out the Aquarian Conspiracy ques- 
tionnaire noted that the women's movement was important in 
their own change — not only because it focused on the trampled 
potentials of half the human race but also because it questioned 
the supremacy of those masculine characteristics valued in the 
society: competition, manipulation, aggression, objectivity. 
One said, “Much of the transformation was catalyzed by rela- 
tionships. Having loving women help me let go of sexist at- 
titudes contributed greatly to the increased 'yin' nature I have 
acknowledged in myself, which has unified my life and work." 

As women in transformation are discovering their sense of 
self and vocation, men are discovering the rewards of sensitive 
relationships. During these equalizing shifts, the basis for 
male-female interaction is being redefined. Men are becoming 
more feeling and intuitive; women, more autonomous and 

According to very old wisdom, self-discovery inevitably in- 
volves the awakening of the traits usually associated with the 
opposite sex. All of the gifts of the human mind are available to 
the conscious self: nurturance and independence, sensitivity 
and strength. If we complete such qualities within ourselves, 
we are not as dependent on others for them. Much of what has 
been labeled love in our culture is infatuation with, and the 
need for, our missing inner halves. 

The transformed self breaks out of the compartments struc- 
tured by cultural role assignments, not only by acknowledging 
aspects long suppressed but also by recognizing how the as- 
signed traits can become distorted. Strength may become cari- 
catured as machismo, aggression, taciturnity. Nurturance may 
be exaggerated into smothering. Whatever short-circuits our 

390 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

spontaneity, be it denial or exaggeration, contributes to uncon- 
sciousness and unreality. 

Conventional terms of relationship — husband, wife, father, 
son, daughter, sister, in-law, lover, friend of the family — do 
not identify us as persons and, in fact, may mask our authentic 
selves if we keep trying to match our behavior and feelings to 
the "job description." 


Personal transformation has a greater impact on relationships 
than on any other realm of life. It may be fairly said that the first 
impact is on relationships; they improve or deteriorate but 
rarely stay the same. 

There are myriad changes: the ways we use power, openness 
to experience, capacity for intimacy, new values, lowered com- 
petition, greater autonomy in the face of social pressures. A 
formerly authoritarian person may no longer enjoy having 
power over others, and a passive person may become assertive. 

In some cases these changes are welcomed. More often they 
are threatening. The game-playing inherent in most relation- 
ships cannot withstand the departure of one player. Just as the 
larger cultural trance is shattered in transformation, so is the 
trance of our miniculture, the relationship. We see that its 
habits and fences may have kept us from richer, more creative 
lives, from being ourselves. If one partner now feels that voca- 
tion and day-to-day living are more urgent than long-range 
goals, the partner who still supports the old agenda may feel 
angry and abandoned. 

"Gus is gone, and he's not coming back," one woman said of 
her husband's new world. Their inability to share the transfor- 
mative journey had created an ever-widening chasm, and she 
felt she could not find a bridge. 

The most significant force in changing relationships is the 
transformation of fear. Beneath the surface, most intimate rela- 
tionships pivot on fear: fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, 
fear of loss. In their most intimate bonds, many people seek not 
just sanctuary but a fortress. If, through whatever medium — 
meditation, a social movement, assertiveness training, quiet 
reflection, est — one partner breaks free of fear and condition- 
ing, the relationship becomes unfamiliar territory. 

Reassurances help very little. The threatened partner may 

Human Connections 391 

show open disapproval, either through anger, mockery, or ar- 
gument. People want us to change, but to meet their needs, not 
ours. And the partner who feels threatened cannot see why the 
other does not just change back (“If you loved me . . . “) — or 
hopes that this is a passing phase, like adolescent rebellion or 
midlife crisis. 

But you can't quit a new reality the way you might resign 
from a job, the Democratic party, or the Presbyterian church. 
This new perspective defuses your fears, electrifies your 
awareness, links you to the human company, enlivens your 

If the fearful partner cannot adjust or join, there will eventu- 
ally be a rift, either actual or psychological. Those who stay in a 
relationship hostile to their new world have two choices: to be 
open about their interests, which may fuel the misunder- 
standing ... or to become clandestine. Either way, they can no 
longer explore, within the relationship , the most meaningful de- 
velopments in their lives. 

A New York artist whose husband belittles her spiritual 
search put it bluntly: “I lead a double life." 

This anguish is the dearest price we pay for the New World, 
as we gradually concede that it cannot be explained, only seen. 
There is a deep sadness, not only for the loss of what might 
have been a shared journey but more intensely for what the 
companion seems to be rejecting: freedom, fulfillment, hope. 
Yet trying to argue someone into a paradigm shift, telling him 
to disregard old cynicism or limiting beliefs, is as futile as tell- 
ing someone blinded by cataracts to open his eyes wider. Our 
fears, motives, and needs are idiosyncratic. We come to under- 
standings in our own time and in our own ways. We remember 
that we ourselves initially rejected ideas that later became cen- 
tral to our lives — once we experienced them to be true. 

Whatever the cost in personal relationships, we discover that 
our highest responsibility, finally, unavoidably is the steward- 
ship of our potential — being all we can be. We betray this trust 
at the peril of mental and physical health. At bottom, Theodore 
Roszak observed, most of us are “sick with guilt at having lived 
below our authentic level." 

If one partner develops a strong sense of vocation and the 
other has none, that commitment can become a source of 
jealousy and antagonism, creating, in effect, a triangle. 

Relationships have a mathematics of their own, either enrich- 
ing or destructive. As social critic Norbert Prefontaine de- 
scribed this phenomenon: 

392 The Aquarian Conspiracy / 

When one thing and one thing are added together, the 
result is two things, be those things oranges, pistons, or 
buildings. However, if one person is added to another per- 
son, the result is always more than two or less than two, 
but never merely two. That is, persons who genuinely 
meet and interact either strengthen each other so that they 
are stronger together than the sum of them separately or 
they damage each other so that they are weaker together 
than the sum of them together. 1 

Psychologist Dennis Jaffe pointed out that two people can be 
a source of growth, support, and health for each other or 
they can be what he calls “lethal dyads." 

A closed relationship, like a closed system in nature, loses 
energy. A schoolteacher said, “The old conventional rela- 
tionships, in their exclusivity and ego massage, isolated us 
even more than if we were alone. The only difference was 
now it was the two of us, an island." 

The transformative process, while making ever more ap- 
parent the narrowing aspects of our relationships, also intro- 
duces us to new possibilities. 


A transformative relationship is a whole that is more than the 
sum of its parts. It is synergistic, holistic. Like a dissipative 
structure, it is open to the world — a celebration and explora- 
tion, not a hiding place. 

As we become more concerned with the essence of rela- 
tionship and less with the form, the quality of human inter- 
action changes. Experiences of unity, fullness, awakened 
senses, empathy and acceptance, flow — all of these open us 
to more possibilities for connection than we had before. 

This is the union described by Martin Buber: 

In a real conversation, a real lesson, a real embrace ... in all 
these, what is essential takes place between them in a di- 
mension which is accessible only to them both. ... If 1 and 

'A management consultant, Ben Young, had a slightly different qualitative 
metaphor: "In every relationship there are two ways of adding. One plus one 
equals two — two independent individuals. But they can also make a whole — 
one half plus one-half equals one. We all enjoy feeling part of a single whole, 
but we need to allow each other to be separate individuals, too. The problem is 
that most people try to take their 'half' out of the other person's 'one.'" 

Human Connections 393 

another "happen" to one another, the sum does not ex- 
actly divide. There is a remainder somewhere, where the 
souls end and the world has not yet begun . 

This dimension, "the between," the I-Thou, Buber also called 
"the secrecy without a secret." It is a conspiracy of two, a 
momentarily polarized circuit of consciousness, an electrified 
linking of minds. It neither asks nor answers; it simply con- 
nects. As Buber said, it may only be a look exchanged on a 
subway. And at its most complex and dynamic, it is the 
planet's brain, the accelerating awareness of brotherhood an- 
ticipated by Teilhard, Buber, Maslow, and others. 

It is strangely impartial, turning frogs into princes, beasts 
into beauties. As more individuals open up to each other, ex- 
pressing warmth and encouragement, love is a more available 
source of approval and energy. This can be a confusing 
phenomenon if seen through the lenses of the old paradigm. 

One who believes in us, who encourages our transformation, 
whose growth interacts with and enhances our own, is what 
Milton Mayerhoff called "the appropriate other." Such caring 
relationships help us to become "in-place." We cannot find our 
growth alone, Teilhard said. He himself had intense friend- 
ships, many of them with women despite church strictures 
against even platonic closeness between priests and women. 
"Isolation is a blind alley. . . . Nothing on the planet grows ex- 
cept by convergence." 

In his Aquarian Conspiracy questionnaire, a politician wrote 
of "the transforming power of liberating love relationships — 
occasionally experiencing myself more openly, fully, deeply, 
innocently than I had heretofore any sense of." 

A number of those who responded to the questionnaire 
commented on the importance of powerful friendships that 
guided them across new territory. One, herself a therapist, 
remarked on the importance of "always meeting an essential 
strong person in my life when I need them. Each takes me to a 
certain point, then there's a period of integration, and the next 
one appears. These meetings are always accompanied by a 
deep sense of recognition and intense 'soul' involvement." 

The loving, transformative relationship is a compass to our 
potential. It frees, fulfills, awakens, empowers. You don't have 
to "work at it." With its curious blend of intensity, ease, and 
spiritual connection, the transformative relationship contrasts 
with all the less rewarding connections in our lives and be- 
comes as vital as oxygen. Each such relationship is also a com- 
pass to another kind of society, a model of mutual enrichment 

394 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

that can be extended throughout the fabric of our lives. Yet it 
requires that we first redefine our terms. 

"When you ask what love is," said Krishnamurti, "you may 
be too frightened to see the answer. . . . You may have to shat- 
ter the house you have built, you may never go back to the 
temple." Love is not fear, he said. It is not dependence, 
jealousy, possessiveness, domination, responsibility, duty, 
self-pity, or any of the other things that conventionally pass for 
love. "If you can eliminate all these, not by forcing them but by 
washing them away as the rain washes away the dust of many 
days from a leaf, then perhaps you will come upon this strange 
flower man hungers after." 

The transformative relationship is more easily described in 
terms of what it does not include. Our cultural concept of love's 
possibilities has been so limited that we don't have the proper 
vocabulary for a holistic experience of love, one that encom- 
passes feeling, knowing, sensing. 

To have a transformative relationship you must be open and 
vulnerable. Most people meet only at their peripheries, Raj- 
neesh, an Indian teacher, said. "To meet a person at his center 
is to pass through a revolution in yourself. If you want to meet 
someone at his center, you will have to allow him to reach your 
center also." 

Transformative relationships are characterized by trust. The 
partners are defenseless, knowing that neither will take advan- 
tage or cause needless pain. Each can risk, explore, stumble. 
There is no pretense, no facade. All aspects of each partner are 
welcome, not just agreed-upon behaviors. "Love is more im- 
portant than romance," a magazine editor asserted. "Accep- 
tance is more important than approval." 

Past the old conditioning of competition, the partners coop- 
erate; they are more than two. They dare and challenge each 
other. They take pleasure in each other's capacity to surprise. 

The transformative relationship is a shared journey toward 
meaning. The process itself is paramount and cannot be 
compromised. One is faithful to a vocation, not a person . 2 

2 In a forthcoming book, The Couple's Journey, Susan Campbell reports on her 
study of one hundred fifty couples, ranging in age from the twenties to the 
seventies, “who were engaged in developing greater awareness in their rela- 
tionships." She has identified several stages of growth through which a couple 
pass en route to a transformative “co-creative" relationship. The preceding 
stages are an illusory romance, a power struggle, stability, mutual commit- 
ment, and finally a commitment to help one another realize a creative vocation 
in the world. 

Human Connections 395 

"Genuine love," Simone de Beauvoir said, "ought to be found- 
ed on the mutual recognition of two liberties; the lovers would 
then experience themselves both as self and the other; neither 
would give up transcendence, neither would be mutilated. To- 
gether they would manifest values and aims in the world." 

Because there is a continuous change in a transformative 
relationship, there can be no taking for granted. Each partner is 
awake to the other. The relationship is always new, an experi- 
ment, free to become whatever it will. It rests on the security 
that comes from giving up absolute certainty. 

The transformative relationship defines itself; it does not try 
to conform to what society says it should be but serves only the 
needs of the participants. There may be guiding principles, 
even flexible agreements, but no rules. 

Love is a context, not a behavior. It is not a commodity, 
"won," "lost," "earned," "stolen," "forfeited." The relation- 
ship is not diminished by either partner's caring for others. 
One can easily have more than one transformative relationship 
at a time. 

Both partners feel bonded to the whole, the community. 
There are new capacities to give and receive love, joy and sym- 
pathy for many. This intense communion with the world can- 
not be pressed into a narrow channel. A physician said, "It's as 
if you've been withholding your empathy with the world, and 
suddenly you lose your virginity. You feel as if you want to 
make love to the cosmos. Now, how are you going to explain 
that to anybody?" 


At first we may try to fit this new cosmic caring into conven- 
tional structures, the kind of romantic expressions conditioned 
by our culture. We soon learn that the old forms of relationship 
are inappropriate to the demands of the transformative jour- 
ney. One woman said of a brief remarriage after the end of a 
long marriage, "In retrospect, I realize that I was trying one last 
fling with the Old World, I was running away from my own 
spiritual drive." 

A businessman said that for a time he tried to be more crea- 
tive in his work and sought out sexual relationships "all trying 
to fill up the empty hole in the middle — the spiritual hunger. 
But once you recognize what you're doing, you stop. You can't 
keep doing it." 

396 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

As transformative relationships evolve in our lives, we may 
find in them qualities that evoke the original meaning of ro- 
mance, as it emerged in the nineteenth century. Romance re- 
ferred then to the infinite and unfathomable, those forces in 
nature which are ever forming. Although it preferred the natu- 
ral to the mechanistic, the Romantic movement was by no 
means anti-intellectual or anti-rational. Ironically, in their ea- 
gerness to probe the mysteries of nature, the Romantics gener- 
ated the scientific curiosity that finally led to the glorification of 
reason. Romance was then reduced to a cosmetic and trivial 
role, representing all that is unreal, the gilt that hides the tar- 
nish of life. 

In its heyday the Romantic movement celebrated family, 
friendship, nature, art, music, literature, drawing on what one 
historian called "the mystery of the spirit, the larger self, the 
sense of quest." In a very real sense romance was identical with 
what we now call the spiritual. It trusted direct experience; it 
sought meaning. 

Our cultural romance, however, is external, the product of 
conditioning: movies, television, commerce, custom. No won- 
der we become apostates from conventional romance! It's like 
second-hand God. And there is the same sense of loss and 
disillusionment as when we rebel against organized religion. 
We abandon the adventure; we say it is a sham. Yet the hunger 
is still there, the haunting suspicion that we are missing some- 
thing central to life. 

In the transformative process, romance — that numinous, 
spiritual, inward quality — is embodied in an adventure that 
evokes its own symbols and language, that feels like "the real 
thing," a dream from which you don't awaken. De Beauvoir 
conceded that certain forms of the sexual adventure would be 
lost as we became more real, "but this does not mean that love, 

happiness, poetry, dream will be banished Our lack of 

imagination always depopulates the future." 

A Taoist meditation says, "Seek no contract, and you shall 
find union." One of the transformative shifts is an ebbing away 
of what the Eastern philosophies call "attachment." Non- 
attachment is a compassion that does not cling, love that ac- 
cepts reality and is not needy. Non-attachment is the opposite 
of wishful thinking. 

The old familiar emotions like jealousy, fear, insecurity, and 
guilt are unlikely to evaporate. But the overall patterns are 
changing. For some this means confronting and transcending 
internal contradictions, like the desire for freedom for oneself 

Human Connections 397 

and fidelity in a partner. Coming to terms with such deep con- 
flict is difficult, painful, and, for many, rewarding. 

One woman said in her Aquarian Conspiracy questionnaire, 
“I spent two years learning how to love without possessing. I 
decided that when I got married it would be that way for me, 
and it has been for thirteen years. I've learned that you can love 
more than one person, that you may be jealous, but you can 
never possess someone, only make desperate tries at it. We 
possess nothing, least of all each other." 

Writing in a Quaker newsletter, one woman envisioned a 
near future in which everyone is more able to relate to others — 
husbands and wives not possessing each other, nor parents 
their children, in the old constricting ways. 

We will recognize that each person needs to nourish and 
be nourished by many persons, and we will not seek to 
restrict them through fear. We will know that we can only 
keep that which we set free. . . . We recognize ourselves as 
members of the family of human beings. It is right, even 
necessary, to make yourselves available to one another in 
new loving, caring, and fulfilling ways — without the 
spectres of old guilts at loving widely. 

In new-paradigm relationships, the emphasis is not so much 
on sexuality as intimacy. Intimacy is prized for its shared 
psychic intensity and transformative possibilities, of which sex 
is only a part — and often a latent part at that. 

For many people, giving up the idea of exclusive relation- 
ships is the most difficult paradigm shift in their own transfor- 
mation. Some choose to limit their sexual expression to a pri- 
mary relationship. Others may give priority but not exclusivity 
to the primary relationship. The desirability of exclusive rela- 
tionships is a deep cultural belief, despite contradictory evi- 
dence — and behavior . 3 For many people, giving up the old 

3 Many sociologists anticipate the “evolution" of monogamy. Marriage, they 
say, must be transformed as an institution if it is to survive at all. In an article 
titled "Is Monogamy Outdated?" Rustom and Della Roy said that "about half 
of all marriages now existing will, and probably should, be terminated." If 
monogamy is tied inextricably with the restriction of all sexual expression to 
the spouse, they said, it will ultimately be monogamy that suffers." Instead it 
should be tied to more basic concepts (fidelity, honesty, openness) which do 
not necessarily exclude deep relationships with others, possibly including 
various degrees of sexual intimacy." 

In our highly eroticized environment, the Roys said, people are brought 
together in all kinds of relationship-producing situations. Traditional 

398 The Aquarian Conspiracy / 

need for exclusivity was the most difficult paradigm shift of all, 
yet necessary if they were to be true to their own mores. 

Trying to analyze the sexual revolution, contemporary soci- 
ologists have commented that the difference is in attitudes, not 
behavior. Our culture's traditional sexual mores have been 
widely violated in this society since the twenties, if not before. 
John Cuber, a sociologist at Ohio State University, found that, 
compared to their counterparts in 1939, young people in 1969 
did not accept the old sexual rules. Even if they did not wish to 
engage in the once "forbidden” behavior, they challenged the 
validity of the law. Cuber said: 

There is a profound difference between someone who breaks the 
rules and someone who does not accept the rules . One is a trans- 
gressor; the other is a revolutionary. No government trem- 
bles before the tax evader. But no government could brook 
a Boston Tea Party; that was revolution. 

. . . Will the revolutionaries ever return to the fold, mend 
their ways, recant? I think not. It is a comfortable cliche 
among the middle-aged that the restive young when faced 
with responsibilities will settle into traditional viewpoints. 
That is not so for this generation. ... As long as the sinner 
acknowledges his guilt, there is a chance that he may re- 
form and repent. But the key to this generation is precisely 
its freedom from guilt. 

Others are challenging the very context of sexuality in our 
culture. We have been conditioned to approach all sexual rela- 
tionships in terms of conquest, they say, and this precludes 
deep trust and intimacy. We are "turned on" to a surprising 
degree by that which our culture has programmed us to as- 
sociate with sexuality. This programming also sets us up for 
rejection and frustration. 

In workshops around the country Joel Kramer and Diana 
Alstad talk about a sexual paradigm shift — freeing sexuality 
from "the context of conquest.” Conditioned desires and 
stereotypes have to change, they say, if we are to appreciate the 

monogamy contravenes the growing sense "that the greatest good of human 
existence is deep interpersonal relationships, as many of these as is compatible 
with depth." They concede that most middle-class, educated Americans over 
thirty-five" are so schooled into both exclusivity and possessiveness that very 
few could accept any kind of structured non-exclusivity in marriage," but they 
note that younger people are trying to devise and invent a form of marriage 
appropriate to a new era. 

Human Connections 399 

integrated person — a strong woman, a sensitive man. “Men are 
still sexually turned on to beauty and women to power in very 
deep ways. What is new is that people are no longer satisfied 
with this way of relating." The old paradigm automatically puts 
love and sexuality "out of kilter" with each other. People who 
are "good for you" are often not those who excite you sexually, 
they said. 

What we are talking about is another way of looking at 
relationships and sexuality, in which the major interest is 
in exploring and growing together. We all hunger for solu- 
tions, but rather than defining or laying out a new way to 
be, we must be pioneers if we're going to create a new way 
to live together. 

No real solution can come until both men and women 
truly see the nature of the problem, which lives in each of 
us. . . . Seeing the patterns changes you. 

As long as men and women are hooked into romance, 
they can never meet each other totally. If we are to open 
opportunities to meet human beings, we must leave the 
whole context of conquest. It takes equals to create the 
possibility of mature love. 


The novel Anna Karenina begins, "Happy families are all alike; 
every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." 

Suddenly we aspire to a society in which we may be happy in 
different ways. As the old social structures break, millions have 
been cast loose from the conventional support systems of the 
past. The Carnegie Council on Children estimated in 1978 that 
as many as four of every ten youngsters born in the 1970s will 
spend part of their childhood in a one-parent family. Three out 
of five women polled recently by the Roper organization pre- 
ferred divorce to staying with an unsatisfactory marriage. One 
urban study showed that 40 percent of the city's adults were 
totally without family ties. Only one of four families fits our 
stereotype of the breadwinner husband and homemaker 

It's ten o'clock, says the public service radio announcement. 
Do you know where your child is? A better question: It's late in the 
twentieth century. . . . Amidst experimentation, changing social 

400 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

structures, broken relationships, new relationships, demands 
for freedom, demands for security — do we know where our 
connections are? 

The family can nurture the child so effectively, with warmth 
and stimulation, that we call the result giftedness. But if the 
family fails to nurture, if the emotional bonds are weak, the 
child will not thrive. Studies of infants in institutions have 
shown that the development of normal intelligence requires 
human interaction. Without love, without input and response 
from the world, we can make no sense of the world. Retarda- 
tion is the result for babies who are fed but not played with, 
safe but not spoken to. 

An atmosphere of trust, love, and humor can nourish extra- 
ordinary human capacity. One key is authenticity: parents act- 
ing as people, not as roles. The poet Adrienne Rich recalled one 
summer in Vermont when she and her three young sons lived 
spontaneously, without schedules. Late one night, driving 
home from a movie, she felt wide awake and elated. "We had 
broken together all the rules of bedtime, the night rules, rules I 
myself thought I had to observe in the city or become a 'bad 
mother.' We were conspirators, outlaws from the institution of 
motherhood. I felt enormously in charge of my life." She did 
not want her sons to act for her in the world. "I wanted to act, 
live, in myself and to love them for their separate selves." 

Parents often pretend to endorse rules, institutions, and be- 
havior because they trust authorities more than their own expe- 
rience and intuitions. This perpetuates hypocrisy and the 
power of the institutions from generation to generation. Chil- 
dren, teenagers especially, tend to assume that their own 
feelings are unacceptable, and so they withdraw from their 

"Many, perhaps a majority, of young people are looking for 
deep, intimate relationships," said Ted Clark and Dennis Jaffe 
of their experiences counseling youths. "They need a support- 
ive, understanding, and tolerant person for a guide. Nothing 
has to be 'done.' They just want a place where they can be 

Like the transformative adult relationship, the transforma- 
tive family is an open system, rich in friends and resources, 
giving and hospitable. It is flexible, adaptive to the realities of a 
changing world. It gives its members freedom and autonomy 
as well as a sense of group unity. 

Long before the educational system exacts its psychological 

Human Connections 401 

costs, the family has defined roles and expectations, teaching a 
benign, cooperative attitude toward the world or a competitve, 
paranoid one. The family rewards or punishes innovation. The 
family is a setting for self- disclosure, for intimacy — or for the 
repression of feelings, for hypocrisy. In its rigidity or flexibility, 
its exclusive or inclusive attitudes, the family patterns our later 

The child develops self-esteem in an atmosphere of uncondi- 
tional caring, mastery in an atmosphere of appropriate chal- 

Insecurity keeps many families from outside relationships 
that could change them. They are closed systems. Fearful 
families, said Hossain Danesh, a Canadian psychiatrist, “per- 
ceive the world in dichotomies: men and women, old and 
young, emotions and intellect, power and weakness, self and 
others." They discourage members from friendships with 
people different from themselves. The child gains approval 
only by conforming to the parent's wishes. 

The power of parent-child relationships is tragically evident 
in a phenomenon called emotional dwarfism. A six year old 
with this syndrome may be the size of a three year old. Typi- 
cally, when placed in a good foster home, such a child begins to 
grow normally but stops again if returned to the hostile biologi- 
cal family. Emotional dwarfism is relatively unusual, but a 
more common stunting of growth occurs in families all the time 
when children are thwarted in their unfolding as individuals. 

Frederick Peris, the famous psychologist, once said that 
dissociation — the split between emotions and conscious 
thinking — begins with a parent's conditional love. Because 
many adults were betrayed as children — not rewarded for 
being themselves, always urged to "do better" however hard 
they tried — they find it difficult to trust that they are loved. The 
chain is perpetuated if they become parents because they may 
find it hard to accept their own children unconditionally. Not 
until we have discovered the extent of our own programmed 
fears can we forgive the imperfections and weaknesses of 
others. When we have touched the healthy center in ourselves, 
we know it exists in others, whatever their outward behavior. 
Consciousness enables us to care about them. 

The transformative process is a second chance for many 
people to achieve the self-esteem they were denied as children. 
By reaching the center in themselves, the healthy self, they 
discover their own wholeness. 

402 The Aquarian Conspiracy 


The wider paradigm of relationships and family transcends old 
group definitions. The discovery of our connection to all other 
men, women, and children joins us to another family. Indeed, 
seeing ourselves as a planetary family struggling to solve its 
problems, rather than as assorted people and nations assessing 
blame or exporting solutions, could be the ultimate shift in 

If we consider that any child being abused is our child, the 
problem changes. When we see our culture, our social condi- 
tioning, or our class as an artifact rather than a universal 
yardstick, our kinship expands. We are no longer “ethnocen- 
tric/' centered in our own culture. 

A society in flux will have to create its families in new ways. 
The new family is emerging from networks and communities, 
experimental and intentional groups, friendships. The Ameri- 
can Home Economics Association redefined the family in 1979 
as “two or more persons who share resources, share responsi- 
bility for decisions, share values and goals, and have commit- 
ment to one another over time. The family is that climate that 
one 'comes home to,' and it is this network of sharing and 
commitments that most accurately describes the family unit, 
regardless of blood, legal ties, adoption, or marriage." 

Human beings have a kind of optical illusion, Einstein once 
said. We think ourselves separate rather than part of the whole. 
This imprisons our affection to those few nearest us. “Our task 
must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our 
circle to embrace all living creatures. . . . Nobody achieves this 
completely, but the striving itself is part of the liberation." 

The “transcenders" Maslow studied, Einstein included, 
seemed sadder than the other healthy, self-actualizing persons; 
they saw more clearly the gap between potential and reality 
in human relationships. Any one of them could have written 
a workable recipe for social transformation in five minutes, 
Maslow said. 

“I have seen the truth," Dostoevski said. “It is not as though 
I had invented it with my mind. I have seen it, seen it, and the 

living image of it has filled my soul forever In one day, one 

hour, everything could be arranged at once! The chief thing is to 
love.” He said he realized that this truth had been told and 
retold a billion times, yet it had never transformed human life. 

Love and fraternity, once part of an ideal, have become cru- 
cial to our survival. Jesus enjoined his followers to love one 

Human Connections 403 

another; Teilhard added, “or you perish." Without human af- 
fection, we become sick, frightened, hostile. Lovelessness is a 
broken circuit, loss of order. The worldwide quest for commu- 
nity typified by the networks of the Aquarian Conspiracy is an 
attempt to boost that attenuated power. To cohere. To kindle 
wider consciousness. When man reclaims this energy source, 
the sublimation of spiritual-sensual love, Teilhard once said, 
"for the second time he will have discovered fire." 

During the second New York City blackout, while some 
people were looting, others were beaming their flashlights 
from apartment-building windows to the sidewalks, "moving" 
pedestrians from one building to the next, creating a path of 
light and safety. In this time of uncertainty, when all our old 
social forms are crumbling, when we cannot easily find our 
way, we can be lights to each other. 





When you come to be sensibly touched, the 
scales will fall from your eyes; and by the penetrating eyes 
of love you will discern that which your other 
eyes will never see. 

— FRANQOIS FENELON, 1651-1715 

Victor Hugo prophesied that in the twentieth century 
war would die, frontier boundaries would die, dogma 
would die — and man would live. "He will possess 
something higher than these — a great country, the 
whole earth. . .and a great hope, the whole heaven." 

Today there are millions of residents of that "great country, 
the whole earth." In their hearts and minds, war and bound- 
aries and dogma have indeed already died. And they possess 
that large hope of which Hugo wrote. 

They know each other as countrymen. 

The Whole Earth is a borderless country, a paradigm of hu- 
manity with room enough for outsiders and traditionalists, for 
all our ways of human knowing, for all mysteries and all cul- 
tures. A family therapist says she urges her clients to discover 
not who is right or wrong but what they have as a family. We are 
beginning to make such an inventory of the Whole Earth. Every 
time one culture finds and appreciates the discovery of 

4 05 

406 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

another, every time an individual relishes the talents or unique 
insights of another, every time we welcome the unexpected 
knowledge emerging from inside the self, we add to that 

Rich as we are — together — we can do anything. We have it 
within our power to make peace within our torn selves and 
with each other, to heal our homeland, the Whole Earth. 

We look around at all the reasons for saying No: the failed 
social schemes, the broken treaties, the lost chances. And yet 
there is the Yes, the same stubborn questing that brought us 
from the cave to the moon in a flicker of cosmic time. 

A fresh generation grows up into a larger paradigm; thus it 
has always been. In many science-fiction tales the adults are 
barred from the transformation experienced by a new genera- 
tion. Their children grow irrevocably beyond them, into a 
larger reality. 

Those of us born into the “broken-earth” paradigm have two 
choices: We can go to our graves with the old view, like the 
generations of die-hard scientists who insisted there were no 
such things as meteorites, or germs, or brainwaves, or vita- 
mins — or, we can consign our old beliefs unsentimentally to 
the past and take up the truer, stronger perspective. 

We can be our own children. 


Not even the Renaissance has promised such a radical renewal; 
as we have seen, we are linked by our travels and technology, 
increasingly aware of each other, open to each other. In grow- 
ing numbers we are finding how people can enrich and em- 
power one another, we are more sensitive to our place in na- 
ture, we are learning how the brain transforms pain and con- 
flict, and we have more respect for the wholeness of the self as 
the matrix of health. From science and from the spiritual expe- 
rience of millions, we are discovering our capacity for endless 
awakenings in a universe of endless surprises. 

At first glance, it may seem hopelessly utopian to imagine 
that the world can resolve its desperate problems. Each year 
fifteen million die in starvation and many more live in unrelent- 
ing hunger; every ninety seconds the nations of the world 
spend one million dollars on armaments; every peace is an 
uneasy peace; the planet has been plundered of many of its 
nonrenewable resources. Yet there have been remarkable ad- 

The Whole-Earth Conspiracy 407 

vances as well. Just since the end of World War II, thirty-two 
countries with 40 percent of the world's population have over- 
come their problems of food scarcity; China is becoming essen- 
tially self-sufficient and has controlled its once-overwhelming 
population growth; there is a net gain in world literacy and in 
populist governments; concern for human rights has become a 
stubborn international issue. 

We have had a profound paradigm shift about the Whole 
Earth. We know it now as a jewel in space, a fragile water 
planet. And we have seen that it has no natural borders. It is 
not the globe of our school days with its many-colored nations. 

We have discovered our interdependence in other ways, too. 
An insurrection or crop failure in a distant country can signal 
change in our daily lives. The old ways are untenable. All coun- 
tries are economically and ecologically involved with each 
other, politically enmeshed. The old gods of isolationism and 
nationalism are tumbling, artifacts like the stone deities of Eas- 
ter Island. 

We are learning to approach problems differently, knowing 
that most of the world's crises grew out of the old paradigm — 
the forms, structures, and beliefs of an obsolete understanding 
of reality. Now we can seek answers outside the old 
frameworks, ask new questions, synthesize, and imagine. Sci- 
ence has given us insights into wholes and systems, stress and 
transformation. We are learning to read tendencies, to recog- 
nize the early signs of another, more promising, paradigm. 

We create alternative scenarios of the future. We communi- 
cate about the failures of old systems, forcing new frameworks 
for problem-solving in every area. Sensitive to our ecological 
crisis, we are cooperating across oceans and borders. Awake 
and alarmed, we are looking to each other for answers. 

And this may be the most important paradigm shift of all. 
Individuals are learning to trust — and to communicate their change of 
mind. Our most viable hope for a new world lies in asking 
whether a new world is possible. Our very question, our anxi- 
ety, says that we care. If we care, we can infer that others 
care, too. 

The greatest single obstacle to the resolution of great prob- 
lems in the past was thinking they could not be solved — a 
conviction based on mutual distrust. Psychologists and 
sociologists have found that most of us are more highly moti- 
vated than we think each other to be! For instance, most 
Americans polled favor gun control but believe themselves in 
the minority. We are like David Riesman's college students. 

408 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

who all said they did not believe advertising but thought 
everyone else did. Research has shown that most people be- 
lieve themselves more high-minded than "most people." 
Others are presumed to be less open and concerned, less will- 
ing to sacrifice, more rigid. Here is the supreme irony: our 
misreading of each other. Poet William Stafford wrote: 

If you don't know the kind of person I am 
and I don't know the kind of person you are 
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world, 
and following the wrong god home, we may miss our star. 

Following the wrong god home, we have seen all of those we 
did not understand as alien, the enemy. Failing to comprehend 
each other's politics, cultures, and subcultures, which often are 
based on a different worldview, we questioned each other's 
motives . . . denied each other's humanity. We have failed to 
see the obvious: "Most people," whatever their philosophy 
about how to get there, want a warless society in which we are 
all fed, productive, fulfilled. 

If we see each other as obstacles to progress, our assumption 
is the first and greatest obstacle. Mistrust is a self-fulfilling 
prophecy. Our old-paradigm consciousness has guaranteed its 
own dark expectations; it is our collective negative self-image. 

Now, as we are learning to communicate, as ever-increasing 
numbers of people are transforming their fear and finding their 
bonds with the rest of humanity, sensing our common yearn- 
ings, many of the planet's oldest, deepest problems show 
promise of breaking and yielding. The shift for which we have 
waited, a revolution of appropriate trust, is beginning. Instead 
of enemies, we are looking for allies everywhere. 

When an international conference, "The Future of the West," 
convened at the University of Southern California, the au- 
thorities agreed firmly on one point: The conference had been 
misnamed. The West, they said, can have no future apart from 
the East. This awareness may signal what Martin Heidegger 
called "the still unspoken gathering of the whole of Western 
fate . . . the gathering from which alone the Occident can go 
forth to meet its coming decisions — to become, perhaps, and in 
a wholly other mode, a land of dawn, an Orient." 

Beneath the trappings of culture, anthropologists have said, 
lies a whole other world. When we understand it, our view of 
human nature will change radically. Now we confront an array 
of possible ways to be. The global village is a reality. We are 

The Whole-Earth Conspiracy 409 

joined by satellite, supersonic travel, four thousand interna- 
tional meetings each year, tens of thousands of multinational 
companies, international organizations and newsletters and 
journals, even an emergent pan-culture of music, movies, art, 
humor. Lewis Thomas observed: 

Effortlessly, without giving it a moment's thought, we are 
capable of changing our language, music, manners, mor- 
als, entertainment, even the way we dress, all around the 
earth in a year's turning. We seem to do this by general 
agreement, without voting or even polling. We simply 
think our way along, pass information around, exchange 
codes disguised as art, change our minds, transform 

. . . Joined together, the great mass of human minds 
around the earth seems to behave like a coherent living 

The proliferating small groups and networks arising all over 
the world operate much like the coalitional networks in the 
human brain. Just as a few cells can set up a resonant effect in 
the brain, ordering the activity of the whole, these cooperating 
individuals can help create the coherence and order to crystal- 
lize a wider transformation. 

Movements, networks, and publications are gathering 
people around the world in common cause, trafficking in trans- 
formative ideas, spreading messages of hope without the sanc- 
tion of any government. Transforma tibn has no country. 

These self-organizing groups are very little like old political 
structures; they overlap, form coalitions, and support each 
other without generating a conventional power structure. 
There are environmental groups like Les Vertes in France and 
the Green Alliance in Great Britain, women's groups, peace 
groups, human rights groups, groups battling world hunger; 
thousands of centers and networks supporting “new con- 
sciousness," like Nexus in Stockholm; publications like Alterna 
in Denmark, New Humanities and New Life in Great Britain, 
linking many groups; symposia on consciousness in Finland, 
Brazil, South Africa, Iceland, Chile, Mexico, Rumania, Italy, 
Japan, the USSR. 

The Future in Our Hands, a movement launched in Norway 
in 1974 and inspired by a book of that title by Erik Damman, 
now numbers twenty thousand of that country's total popula- 
tion of four million. The rapidly growing movement promotes 

410 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

"a new lifestyle and a fair distribution of the world's re- 
sources.” It emphasizes the need for industrialized nations to 
curb their consumption patterns and seeks ways to boost the 
living standard of Third World countries. According to a na- 
tional survey, 50 percent of the Norwegian population sup- 
ports the goals of the movement, 75 percent believe that their 
nation's standard of living is too high, and 80 percent fear that 
continued economic growth will lead to an increasingly stress- 
ful, materialistic lifestyle. 

The movement is fueled by grass-roots power. Small local 
groups determine their own course in furthering the collective 
goals. A related movement started in Sweden in 1978 and 
another is now under way in Denmark. 

These social movements transcend traditional national bor- 
ders, with Germans joining French demonstrators to protest 
nuclear power plants. Johann Quanier, British publisher of The 
New Humanity journal, said, "The strands of free thinking 
within Europe are now being drawn together; despite the con- 
flicts, the tension, and the differences, that territory is preemi- 
nently suitable for the emergence of the new political-spiritual 

To Aurelio Peccei, founder of the Club of Rome, such groups 
represent "the yeast of change . . . scattered, myriad spontane- 
ous groupings of people springing up here and there like an- 
tibodies in a sick organism." An organizer of a peace group 
remarked on his discovery of these networks and their sense of 
"imminent world transformation." Many brilliant, creative 
thinkers have affiliated internationally to help synthesize the 
intellectual support for an emergent vision for the planet. To 
them it is more than a mere scenario, one of many possible 
futures, but rather a responsibility; the alternatives seem to 
them to be unimaginable. 

The Threshold Foundation, based in Switzerland, stated its 
intent to help ease the transition into a planetary culture, "fos- 
ter a paradigm shift, a new model of the universe in which art, 
religion, philosophy, and science converge," and promote a 
wider understanding that "we exist in a cosmos whose many 
levels of reality form a single sacred whole." 


We are changing because we must. 

Historically, peace efforts have been aimed at ending or pre- 

The Whole-Earth Conspiracy 411 

venting wars. Just as we have defined health in negative terms, 
as the absence of disease, we have defined peace as non- 
conflict. But peace is more fundamental than that. Peace is a 
state of mind, not a state of the nation. Without personal trans- 
formation, the people of the world will be forever locked in 

If we limit ourselves to the old-paradigm concept of averting 
war, we are trying to overpower darkness rather than switch- 
ing on the light. If we reframe the problem — if we think of 
fostering community, health, innovation, self-discovery, pur- 
pose — we are already engaged in waging peace. In a rich, cre- 
ative, meaningful environment there is no room for hostility. 

War is unthinkable in a society of autonomous people who 
have discovered the connectedness of all humanity, who are 
unafraid of alien ideas and alien cultures, who know that all 
revolutions begin within and that you cannot impose your 
brand of enlightenment on anyone else. 

The Vietnam War protests in the United States marked a 
critical turning point, a coming of age, as millions said, in ef- 
fect, that you can't consign an autonomous people to a war 
they don't believe in. Other phenomena in recent years have 
been equally significant: fifteen thousand Germans marching 
in Cologne to oppose a new flicker of Nazism and to express 
their individual grief for the Holocaust . . . Catholics and Protes- 
tants risking their lives to embrace at a bridge in Northern 
Ireland, promising each other to work for peace . . . “Peace 
Now," the Israeli movement launched by combat soldiers ask- 
ing, “Give peace a chance." 

After a recent congress in Vienna on the role of women in 
world peace, Patricia Mische wrote of “the transformation al- 
ready slowly in process among individuals and groups who, in 
a deep probing of their own humanness, are discovering the 
bonds they have with people everywhere." 

Can the arms race be reversed? "A prior question," Mische 
said, "would be, 'Can people — and nations — change their hearts 
and minds?"' The Vienna participants seemed living testimony 
that the answer is Yes. At the close of the congress one partici- 
pant asked, to tumultous applause, that at future conferences 
speakers not be required to identify themselves by nationality. 
"I am here as a planetary citizen," she said, “and these prob- 
lems belong to all of us." 

In The Whole Earth Papers, a series of monographs, James 
Baines described a “power paradigm" and a “peace 
paradigm." For millennia, he said, we have lived under the 

412 The Aquarian Conspiraa/ 

power paradigm, a belief system based on independence and 
domination. Yet it has always existed alongside the compo- 
nents for a peace paradigm: a society based on creativity, free- 
dom, democracy, spirituality. To foster a global shift, Baines 
said, we can now create "a web of reinforcement": leadership 
comfortable with uncertainty, heightened public awareness of 
the contradictions in the power paradigm, exciting models of 
new lifestyles, appropriate technology, techniques for ex- 
panded consciousness and spiritual awakening. Once these 
ideas coalesce into a coherent new paradigm grounded in 
transformation, we will see that humanity is both a part of 
creation and its steward as well, "a product of evolution and an 
instrument of evolution." 

We need not wait for a leadership. We can begin to effect 
change at any point in a complex system: a human life, a fam- 
ily, a nation. One person can create a transformative environ- 
ment for others through trust and friendship. A warm family or 
community can make a stranger feel at ease. A society can 
encourage growth and renewal in its members. 

We can begin anywhere — everywhere. "Let there be peace," 
says a bumper sticker, "and let it begin with me." Let there be 
health, learning, relationship, right uses of power, meaningful 
work Let there be transformation , and let it begin with me. 

All beginnings are invisible, an inward movement, a revolu- 
tion in consciousness. Because human choice remains sac- 
rosanct and mysterious, none of us can guarantee a transforma- 
tion of society. Yet there is reason to trust the process. Trans- 
formation is powerful, rewarding, natural. It promises what 
most people want. 

Perhaps that is why the transformed society exists already as 
a premonition in the minds of millions. It is the "someday" of 
our myths. The word "new" so freely used (new medicine, 
new politics, new spirituality) does not refer so much to some- 
thing modem as to something imminent and long awaited. 

The new world is the old — transformed. 


Historically, movements for social change have all operated in 
much the same way. A paternal leadership has convinced 
people of the need for change, then recruited them for specific 
tasks, telling them what to do and when to do it. The new 
social movements operate on a different assumption of human 

The Whole-Earth Conspiracy 413 

potential: the belief that individuals, once they are deeply con- 
vinced of a need for change, can generate solutions from their 
own commitment and creativity. The larger movement inspires 
them, it supports their efforts and gives them information, but 
its structure cannot direct or contain their efforts. 

The power of individuals to generate broad social change is 
the basis for the Hunger Project, an international charitable 
organization launched by est founder Werner Erhard in 1977 
and headquartered in San Francisco. The Hunger Project's goal 
is to speed up a solution to the world hunger problem by acting 
as a catalyst. It is an intense, sophisticated large-scale effort to 
hurry a paradigm shift — to "make an idea's time come," as the 
project's organizers put it. The successes of the project and the 
ways in which it has been misunderstood are instructive. 

The Hunger Project assumes that solutions do not reside in 
new programs or more programs. According to the best- 
informed authorities and agencies, the expertise to end hunger 
within two decades already exists. Hunger persists because of 
the old-paradigm assumption that it is not possible to feed the 
world's population. 

In less than two years, seven hundred fifty thousand individuals 
in dozens of countries have pledged their personal commit- 
ment to help end world hunger by 1997; enrollment in the 
Hunger Project is increasing at the rate of more than sixty 
thousand per month. Three million dollars has been raised 
explicitly to increase public awareness of the tragic proportions 
of the problem, the available solutions, and the ways in which 
individuals and groups can accelerate an end to hunger and 
starvation. 1 

The Hunger Project does not compete with older hunger 
organizations; rather, it publicizes their activities and urges en- 
rollees to support them. The project draws all concerned par- 
ties into its efforts. Just prior to the launching of the founda- 
tion, a delegation that included world food distribution experts 
met with India's prime minister. Advisers to the project repre- 
sent many nations and existing hunger organizations; Arturo 
Tanco, president of the World Food Council, is one. Govern- 
ment data, like the National Academy of Sciences report on the 
means to end hunger, are promulgated. 

l In response to media critics who charged that none of the money was buying 
food, the project's administrators explained in a financial report, "If our one 
million dollars can make the five billion spent annually on the development [of 
food resources] just one percent more effective, we will have had a five thousand 
percent return on our money." 

414 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

To create a sense of urgency, the project draws on the power 
of the symbol and the metaphor, describing the toll of starva- 
tion as "a Hiroshima every three days." When a Hunger Proj- 
ect relay of more than one thousand runners carried a baton 
from Maine to the White House, they did not ask the govern- 
ment to solve the problem. Rather, their message spoke of their 
own commitment to help end hunger and starvation. 

The project uses models from nature and scientific dis- 
coveries as metaphors; the hologram, for example, is "a whole 
within a whole." Everyone who enrolls is "the whole project." 
The project is "an alignment of wholes." Everyone who signs 
up is told to "create your own form of participation." Some fast 
and contribute to the project what they would have spent on 
food. Many businesses have donated a day's receipts. A team 
of forty runners generated pledges of six hundred twenty-five 
thousand dollars for running in the Boston Marathon in 1979, 
and twenty- three hundred spectators were enrolled along the 
way. Eighty-eight fifth graders in a California school sponsored 
a Skate-a-thon and raised six hundred dollars; when they des- 
ignated their funds for "the boat people," the Hunger Project 
put them in touch with Food for the Hungry, an organization 
directly assisting the refugees. 

Everyone who signs up is encouraged to enlist others. Enrol- 
lees are told how to capture the interest of clubs, school boards, 
lawmakers; how to direct letters; how to make public pre- 
sentations. Each enrollee is asked to become a teacher. Semi- 
nars emphasize the power of a single committed person, like 
the man in New Rochelle, New York, who enrolled his mayor, 
school superintendent, city manager, governor, and lieutenant 
governor; and the Honolulu woman who signed up the entire 
congressional delegation, governor, and most of the state legis- 
lature. At her urging the governor proclaimed Hunger Week, 
and state legislators passed a resolution to encourage Hawaiian 
agricultural research to help alleviate world hunger. A Mas- 
sachusetts couple enrolled fifty thousand. 

Prisoners have been among the most dedicated supporters of 
the Hunger Project. A prisoner in the correctional facility at San 
Luis Obispo, California, enrolled fifteen hundred of the 
twenty-four hundred inmates. A Leavenworth prisoner not 
only became involved in the project; he and seven other in- 
mates also pooled their money to sponsor two Vietnamese 
children through Save the Children. A long-term prisoner in a 
Virginia women's penitentiary said, "The women get bitter and 
critical in here, the walls close in. Each day grinds. Finally you 

The Whole-Earth Conspiracy 415 

give up and dose in on yourself. ... I realized the Hunger Proj- 
ect is a way out of the trap — by reaching out to help others.” 
So long as we thought we couldn't do anything about the 
world's starving millions, most of us tried not to think about 
them; yet that denial has had its price. The Hunger Project 
emphasizes a key principle of transformation — the need to con- 
front painful knowledge: 

We have numbed ourselves so that we do not feel the pain. 
We have to be asleep in order to protect ourselves from the 
horror of knowing that twenty-eight people, most of them 
young children, are dying this very minute — twenty-eight 
people no different from you or me or our children, except 
that we have food and they do not. 

We have closed down our consciousness and aliveness 
to a level where it doesn't bother us. So if you wonder if it 
costs us anything to allow millions to starve, it does. It costs 
us our aliveness. 

Within a year after the launching of the project, ninety com- 
mittees had been organized in thirteen countries. Celebrities 
spoke out for the cause, sometimes without specific reference 
to the project, much as movie stars helped sell war bonds in the 
1940s. Singer John Denver made a documentary film on world 
hunger. He told a newspaper interviewer, "We're at a point in 
this planet where we're going to have to make a specific shift in 
attitude, in how we lend ourselves to life. Up until now it's 
been, 'If this were the last cup of grain, my very survival de- 
pends on my keeping it for me and my o'Cvn.' Now we're at a 
time when we will shift to 'My survival depends on my sharing 
this with you. If this isn't enough for me, my survival still 
depends on my sharing this with you.'" 

Denver, now on the Presidential Commission on World 
Hunger, wrote "I Want to Live," the title song in a gold-record 
album, for the Hunger Project. Its theme: We are on the 
threshold of the end of war and starvation. "It is only an idea — 
but I know its time has come." 

Comedian Dick Gregory gave the project one of its most 
dramatic images: 

When people ask me, "Well, what do you think is going to 
happen with hungry folks?" I give them the kind of an- 
swer the fire marshal gives to the TV reporter when a 
forest fire is burning out of control: "It's out of our hands 

416 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

now. If we don't get a shift in the wind, we can't save it." 

For a while it looked like we weren't going to make it 
unless we got a shift in the wind. But I left leeway for that 
which controls all winds to step in. . . . Our Hunger Project 
is that shift in the Wind. 

A key point is made to those who sign up: A world in which 
hunger has ended will be not merely different or better but 
transformed. And those who take part will be transformed by 
their own participation — by telling friends, family, and co- 
workers of their own commitment, even if they feel self- 
conscious, and by searching for answers. 


The Aquarian Conspiracy is also working to ease hunger — for 
meaning, connection, completion. And each of us is "the 
whole project," the nucleus of a critical mass, a steward of the 
world's transformation. 

In this century we have seen into the heart of the atom. We 
transformed it — and history — forever. But we have also seen 
into the heart of the heart. We know the necessary conditions 
for the changing of minds. Now that we see the deep pathology 
of our past, we can make new patterns, new paradigms. "The 

sum of all our days is just our beginning " 

Transformation is no longer lightning but electricity. We 
have captured a force more powerful than the atom, a worthy 
keeper of all our other powers. 

We find our individual freedom, by choosing not a destina- 
tion but a direction. You do not choose the transformative 
journey because you know where it will take you but because it 
is the only journey that makes sense. 

This is the homecoming so long envisioned. "Condemn me 
and not the path," Tolstoi said. "If I know the road home, and 
if I go along it drunk and staggering, does that prove that the 
road is not the right one? If I stagger and wander, come to my 

help You are also human beings, and you are also going 


The nations of the world, Tocqueville once said, are like 
travelers in a forest. Although each is unaware of the destina- 
tion of the others, their paths lead inevitably toward meeting in 
the center of the forest. In this century of wars and planetary 

The Whole-Earth Conspiracy 417 

crisis, we have been lost in the forest of our darkest alienation. 
One by one the accustomed strategies of nation-states — 
isolation, fortification, retreat, domination — have been cut off. 

We are pressed ever more deeply into the forest, toward an 
escape more radical than any we had imagined: freedom 
with — not from — each other. After a history of separation and 
mistrust, we converge on the clearing. 

Our metaphors of transcendence have spoken of us more 
truly than our wars: the clearing, the end of winter, the water- 
ing of deserts, the healing of wounds, light after darkness — not 
an end to troubles but an end to defeat. 

Over the centuries those who envisioned a transformed soci- 
ety knew that relatively few shared their vision. Like Moses, 
they felt the breezes from a homeland they could see in the 
distance but not inhabit. Yet they urged others on to the possi- 
ble future. Their dreams are our rich, unrealized history, the 
legacy that has always existed alongside our wars and folly. 

In a wider state of consciousness one can sometimes vividly 
re-experience a past trauma and, in retrospect and with imagi- 
nation, respond to it differently. By thus touching the source of 
old fears, we can exorcise them. We are not haunted so much 
by events as by our beliefs about them, the crippling self-image 
we take with us. We can transform the present and future by 
reawakening the powerful past, with its recurrent message of 
defeat. We can face the crossroads again. We can re-choose. 

In a similar spirit, we can respond differently to the tragedies 
of modern history. Our past is not our potential. In any hour, 
with all the stubborn teachers and healers of history who called 
us to our best selves, we can liberate the future. One by one, 
we can re-choose — to awaken. To leave the prison of our condi- 
tioning, to love, to turn homeward. To conspire with and for 
each other. 

Awakening brings its own assignments, unique to each 
of us, chosen by each of us. Whatever you may think about 
yourself and however long you may have thought it, you 
are not just you. You are a seed, a silent promise. You are the 


Summary of 

Of the 185 respondents, 131 were male and 54 female. Approximately 
46 percent lived in California, 29 percent in the East, 9 percent in the 
Midwest, 6 percent in the West (excluding California), 6 percent in 
the South, and 4 percent outside the United States. 

At the time of the survey, 101 (54.5 percent) of the respondents 
were married. Nearly half had been the only child or firstborn in their 
family. As noted in the text, they represented a wide range of voca- 
tions, but most were professionals. 

Many preferred not to designate their positions on the political 
spectrum, saying that the old labels were no longer relevant. Of those 
who answered, 40 percent characterized themselves as liberal, 12 per- 
cent radical, 20 percent centrist, 7 percent conservative, 21 percent 
apolitical. Party affiliation: Independent, 47 percent; Democrat, 34 
percent; Republican, 3 percent; other, 16 percent. Most (72 percent) 
saw government as less essential to problem solving than they had 
five years earlier; 28 percent, more essential. Decentralized govern- 
ment was favored by 89 percent, strong central government by 11 

Fifty-eight percent said they had numerous contacts with individu- 
als who shared their values and their interest in human potential; 42 
percent, only a few. 


Questionnaire Responses 419 

They designated the institutions in transition they considered the 
most dynamic: medicine, 21 percent; psychology, 17 percent; religion, 
13 percent; the family, 12 percent; business, 10 percent; media, 9 
percent; education, 8 percent; the arts, 6 percent; and politics, 4 per- 

The greatest threat to social transformation: popular fear of change, 
44 percent; conservative backlash, 20 percent; divisiveness among 
advocates for change, 18 percent; excessive claims by advocates for 
change, 18 percent. Fifty percent characterized their beliefs about 
humankind's future as optimistic, 38 percent as cautiously optimistic, 
8 percent as uncertain, and 4 percent as pessimistic. 

They each chose four instruments of social change they considered 
most important in terms of their own experience: personal example 
was checked off by 79 percent; support networks, 45 percent; elec- 
tronic media, 39 percent; winning over influential persons, 38 per- 
cent; books, 38 percent; public education, 37 percent; conferences and 
seminars, 32 percent; newsletters and journals, 22 percent; profes- 
sional education, 20 percent; pilot projects, 15 percent; funding 
sophistication, 12 percent; government programs, 9 percent. 

Spiritual disciplines and growth modalities the respondents con- 
sidered important in their own change: Zen, 40 percent; yoga, 40 
percent; Christian mysticism, 31 percent; journals and dream jour- 
nals, 31 percent; psychosynthesis, 29 percent; Jungian therapy, 23 
percent; Tibetan Buddhism, 23 percent; Transcendental Meditation, 
21 percent; Sufism, 19 percent; Transactional Analysis, 11 percent; 
est, 11 percent; the Kabbalah, 10 percent. Earlier religious background 
of the respondents: Protestant, 55 percent; Judaic, 20 percent; 
Catholic, 18 percent; other, 2 percent; none, 5 percent. Eighty-one 
percent were no longer active in the religion of their childhood. 

Body therapies experienced by the respondents: T'ai Chi Ch'uan, 32 
percent; Rolfing, 31 percent; Feldenkrais, 31 percent; the Alexander 
technique, 24 percent; and Reichian methods, 14 percent. 

Many respondents chose not to answer the questions relating to 
former or present use of major psychedelic drugs. Thirty -nine percent 
of all respondents acknowledged that psychedelic experiences had 
been important in their own transformative process; 28 percent said 
they still used psychedelics on occasion; 16 percent said psychedelic 
experiences continued to be important to them. 

Many respondents were engaged in aspects of science; the survey 
showed a high level of interest in the arts as well: 46 percent played a 
musical instrument, 43 percent engaged in arts or crafts on a regular 
basis, and 63 percent regularly read fiction and poetry. 

Most respondents accepted psychic phenomena and the transper- 
sonal dimension as a reality. Choosing from a spectrum of belief — 
strongly sure, moderately sure, unsure, skeptical, and disbelieving — 

420 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

they tended to believe (strongly or moderately sure) in telepathy (96 
percent), psychic healing (94 percent), precognition (89 percent), 
clairvoyance (88 percent), synchronicity (84 percent), psychokinesis 
(82 percent), cosmic intelligence (86 percent), consciousness that sur- 
vives bodily death (76 percent), and reincarnation (57 percent). A 
number protested the use of the word belief, saying that they had 
accepted these phenomena because of direct experiences. 

Peak experiences were described as frequent by 48 percent of the 
respondents, occasional by 45 percent, rare by 5 percent, non-existent 
by 2 percent. 

Major personal change was characterized by 35 percent as very 
stressful on occasion, by 22 percent as “really rough," by 21 percent 
as mildly stressful, and by 22 percent as relatively smooth. 

Asked to designate which of a list of ideas had been important in 
their own thinking, they chose as follows: altered states of conscious- 
ness research, 74 percent; discoveries about the brain's specialized 
hemispheres, 57 percent; parapsychological research, 55 percent; 
Jung's archetypes, 53 percent; paradoxes in physics, 48 percent; 
holographic models of reality, 43 percent; Kuhn's paradigm-shift con- 
cept of scientific revolutions, 39 percent; Teilhard's concept of evolv- 
ing consciousness, 35 percent; paradoxes in evolution, 25 percent; 
and paradoxes in mathematics, 14 percent. 

When respondents were asked to name individuals whose ideas 
had influenced them, either through personal contact or through 
their writings, those most often named, in order of frequency, were 
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, C. G. Jung, Abraham Maslow, Carl Ro- 
gers, Aldous Huxley, Roberto Assagioli, and J. Krishnamurti. 

Others frequently mentioned: Paul Tillich, Hermann Hesse, Alfred 
North Whitehead, Martin Buber, Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, 
Gregory Bateson, Tarthang Tulku, Alan Watts, Sri Aurobindo, 
Swami Muktananda, D. T. Suzuki, Thomas Merton, Willis Harman, 
Kenneth Boulding, Elise Boulding, Erich Fromm, Marshall McLuhan, 
Buckminster Fuller, Frederic Spiegelberg, Alfred Korzybski, Fleinz 
von Foerster, John Lilly, Werner Erhard, Oscar Ichazo, Maharishi 
Mahesh Yogi, Joseph Chilton Pearce, Karl Pribram, Gardner Murphy, 
and Albert Einstein. 



for Change 

The networks, periodicals and directories listed below are only a few of 
hundreds of publications and literally thousands of social-action and 
mutual-help networks and organizations whose orientation is “new 
paradigm." Those included here have a relatively broad focus and are 
open to anyone. Some, like the Association for Humanistic Psychol- 
ogy, help foster the birth of special-interest national and international 
networks as well as the forming of small local groups. 

Many of these groups and publications are stable and well estab- 
lished. Others represent the type of spontaneously self-organizing 
entity described in Chapter 7 as SPINs — created, expanded, trans- 
formed, renamed, and occasionally even dissolved with very little 

Note that many of the books listed under “References and Read- 
ings" are also lists of resources and networks. Books like Mindstyles, 
Lifestyles by Nathaniel Lande and the more recent Mind Therapies, Body 
Therapies by George Feiss are essentially consumer guides and 
catalogs, offering information on a variety of transformative tech- 
niques. Ram Dass's Journey of Awakening includes a 50-page list of 
centers that teach meditation. 

A guide for group discussion of ideas encompassed by The Aquarian 
Conspiracy is being prepared as this book goes to press. For information 
write P. O. Box 42211, Los Angeles, Calif. 90042. 


422 The Aquarian Conspiracy 


Aquarius Tapes 
Carrington Cottage 
Lincoln Road 
Bassingham, Lines. 

Free lending library of cassette 
tapes, including many confer- 
ence proceedings. Catalogue 

Association for Humanistic 
325 Ninth St. 

San Francisco, Calif. 94103 
(415) 626-2375 

International organization; 
matrix for many networks and 
activities, local and regional 
conferences. Publishes news- 
letter for members; also bibliog- 
raphies, lists of growth centers, 
educational programs. See also 
Journal of Humanistic Psychology 
under “Periodicals and Direc- 

Association for Transpersonal 
4615 Paradise Dr. 

P.O. Box 3049 
Stanford, Calif. 94305 
(415) 327-2066 

International organization. 
Publishes newsletter, lists of 
graduate programs in transper- 
sonal psychology and transper- 
sonal education. See also 
Journal of Transpersonal Psy- 
chology under "Periodicals and 

330 Ellis St. 

San Francisco, Calif. 94102 
(415) 771-6307 

Network of businesses and 
professionals. Publishes Briar- 

patch Review newsletter about 
new-age entrepreneurship, $5 
a year. 

British Foundation for Natural 
9 Zetland House 
Marloes Road 
London W8 5LB 
Tel: 01-937 8405 
Previously The Healing Research 
Trust. Research institute and 
information center for all types 
of natural therapy. 

The Dartington Hall Trust 
Elmhirst Centre 
Dartington Hall 
Totnes, Devon 
Tel: Totnes (0803) 862224 
Aims to make life in the 
countryside viable, through a 
wide range of activities includ- 
ing arts, education (Dartington 
Hall School), business and 
farming. Runs an annual one- 
week conference orientated 
towards personal growth and 
new values. 

Ecology Party 
(Gen. Sec. PaulEkins) 

42 Warriner Gardens 
London SW11 4DU 
Tel: 01-7202339 
Offers political expression and 
action to those concerned with 
conservation, alternative tech- 
nology, and planetary steward- 

Festival of Mind-Body-Spirit 
159 George Street 
London W1H5LB 
Tel: 01-723 7256 
Puts on the annual festival in 
Olympia, London, and other 
events including the Psychic's 
and Mystic's Fairs. 

Resources for Change 423 

The Findhom Foundation 

The Park 

Scotland IV36 OTZ 
Community originally famed 
for its giant cabbages, now 
some 300 strong, and running 
various residential workshops 
and seminars. Seeks to inte- 
grate spiritual growth with an 
exemplary lifestyle. Also pub- 
lishes bi-monthly journal One 
Earth Image. 

Friends of the Earth 
9 Poland Street 
London W1V3DG 
Tel: 01-434 1684 
Aims to reduce environmental 
impact of human activities, 
promote energy conservation, 
protect wildlife and eliminate 
wasteful use of resources. Uses 
any legal methods from de- 
monstrating to drafting legis- 
lation, leafleting to legal 

Futures Network 
Marion Williamson 
Deneswood, Wilmerhatch Lane 
Epsom, Surrey 
Phone: Epsom 25502 
Write for information. 

Future Studies Centre 
15 Kelso Road 
Leeds LS2 9PR 
Tel: Leeds (0532) 459865 
Volunteer run information 
center and library on alterna- 
tive lifestyles. Open at all times. 
Also publishes bi-monthly 

Hanuman Foundation 
2043 Francisco St. 

Berkeley, Calif. 94709 

Prison Yoga Project, counseling 
for the terminally ill network- 
ing in these areas. 

Health for the New Age 
la Addison Crescent 
London W14 8JP 
Seeks to promote various forms 
of alternative medical treat- 
ment and to persuade govern- 
ment and other institutions to 
take them seriously. 

Henry Doubleday Research 
Convent Lane 
Braintree, Essex 

Research and information on 
organic horticulture for ama- 
teur gardeners and small- 

63 Chapel St. 

Newton, Mass. 02158 
(617) 964-7140 

Sponsors many activities relat- 
ing to health, the physics of 
consciousness, transpersonal 
psychology and education, 
meditation, politics. 

Institute of Noetic Sciences 
530 Oak Grove Ave., #201 
Menlo Park, Calif. 94025 
(415) 332-5777 

Funds research, symposia re- 
lated to expanded states of 
awareness. Publishes news- 

Box 2240 

Wickenburg, Ariz. 85358 
(602) 684-7861 

International network started 
by Robert Theobald and Jeanne 
Scott to connect those inter- 
ested in personal and social 

424 The Aquarian Conspiracy 

(Linkage Cont'd) 

transformation. See Chapter 7 
for fuller description. 

New Age Access 

P.O. Box 4 

Hexham, Northumberland 
Tel: Hexham (0434) 4809 
Information service on wide 
range of topics concerning en- 
vironment and conservation. 

New Dimensions Foundation 
267 State St. 

San Francisco, Calif. 94114 
(415) 621-1126 

Produces radio programs, 
stages conferences and semi- 
nars for nonprofit organiz- 
ations, publishes an “audio 
journal" of cassettes compiled 
from radio interviews of many 
of the individuals whose work 
is discussed in this book. 
Send for tape list, other in- 

188 Old Street 
London EC1 

Tel: 01-250 1219 and 01-251 3733 
Data bank on more than 6,000 
"New Age" groups in the U.K. 

Open Network 
Box 18666 

Denver, Colo. 80218 
(303) 832-9264 

Computerized network fur- 
nishes access to people, re- 
search, places. 

Our Ultimate Investment 
5615 W. Pico Blvd. 

Los Angeles, Calif. 90019 
(213) 935-4603 

Program launched by Laura 
Huxley. Concerned with prep- 
aration for parenthood, health, 
pregnancy and childbirth, and 

optimum early environment — 
an "investment" in the children 
who will create the future. 
Various programs, network- 
ing. (Includes arranging for 
pre-adolescents to care for 
toddlers to introduce them to 
the serious responsibilities of 
bearing children.) 

Phenomenon of Man Project 
8932 Reseda Blvd. 

Northridge, Calif. 91324 
(213) 886-5260 

Promotes and studies the ideas 
of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin 
regarding the evolution of 
human consciousness. 

Planetary Citizens 
7TJ United Nations Plaza 
New York, N.Y. 10017 
(212) 490-2766 

Prison Ashram Project 
Box 39 

Nederland, Colo. 80466 
Distributes tapes and literature 
to prisoners interested in per- 
sonal transformation. 

SAGE (Senior Actualization and 
Growth Exploration) 

P.O. Box 4244 

San Francisco, Calif. 94101 

(415) 763-0965 

Self Determination: A 
Personal/ Political Network 
Box 126 

Santa Clara, Calif. 98052 
(408) 984-8134 

Network described in Chapter 
7. Although Self Determination 
is currently in hiatus as an 
organization, it is publishing 
Nexus, a directory of California 
resources for personal and 
social change. 

Resources for Change 425 

Shanti Project 
1137 Colusa St. 

Berkeley, Calif. 94909 
(415) 524-4370 

Counselling of the terminally ill 
and the recently bereaved. 

Teilhard Centre for the Future of 

81 Cromwell Road 
London, SW